Category Archives: Literature

17 Good Summer Reads for Children

17 Good Summer Reads for ChildrenFor those of us who like to follow a seasonally-inspired lifestyle, it is now the time to be pulling out the summer-themed books for our children. I thought I’d share a list of some of the books that we have been enjoying.

Do you have any favorite summer-themed reads that I didn’t include? If so, please share the title of it in the comments section below, as I am always on the lookout for new good books!

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Maureen

Labels: Literature, Summer
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Good Spring Books for Young Children

I created a new page with our favorite books for spring and Easter on it, but thought I’d share the spring books as a post also, for those of you who read my blog via readers, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

What are your family’s favorite spring reads?

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Maureen

Labels: Literature, Spring
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday– Picture Kelpies

If you have done any research into Waldorf education, you have probably read at least one book that was published by Floris Books. The “About Floris” page says:

Floris Books is an independent publishing company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. We publish books in two main areas: non-fiction for adults, and books for children. Within our non-fiction list, we focus on quality books which look at the world a little differently. Our books cover all aspects of holistic and alternative living, including Steiner-Waldorf education, biodynamics and organics, holistic health, philosophy of the natural world, mind body spirit, parenting and child health, philosophy of human life and religion & spirituality.

We’re also the largest children’s book publisher in Scotland. We publish board and picture books for 0-7 year olds, including international stories in translation and nostalgic classics from illustrators such as Elsa Beskow, as well as the Picture Kelpies range of Scottish picture books; story books and anthologies for 6-10 year olds; and the Kelpies, a much-loved range of Scottish children’s fiction for 8-12 year olds. We also publish a wide range of craft and activity books suitable for children and adults of all ages. While I love many of their books for parents and educators, the books that Dora and I have become incredibly attached to, are their Picture Kelpies (please note that the regular Kelpie books are for somewhat older children). The stories are very Scottish and Dora has quickly become acquainted with certain Scottish words and expressions, such as “pram”, “tea” (the meal, not the drink), “mum”, “dressing gown”, “tartan, “sitting room”, “bonnie”, and more. There are a few words with spellings that vary from our “American” spellings, such as “favourite”, “miaow”, “pyjamas”, “neighbours”, etc. but, Dora isn’t reading yet and these books are aimed at children aged 3-6. I personally enjoy the Scottish flavor of the stories. I’ve never had much of a desire to visit Scotland before, as I am about 50% Irish and 25% English, so had planned to focus any time I was ever able to have in the United Kingdom on those two countries. Between Floris Books, Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie novels, the movie Brave, and my husbands recent and intense interest in Scotch, however, I have suddenly developed an great desire to visit Scotland.Most certainly, the Picture Kelpie books are not like most of the books that I’ve seen in the United States. I feel that their story lines are much less dramatic, in a good way, that helps to protect young children’s sense of well-being. For instance, in My Cat Mac, a family moves into a new house and the cat that lived their before decides to let them stay. He and the little girl bond immediately, but when the little girl decides to dress him in clothes and push him in a pram, his patience runs out. He leaves and decides to punish her by staying away for a whole night. Meanwhile, the little girl cannot stop worrying about him and sneaks outside to wait for him under his favorite tree. She wakes in the middle of the night to find that she has been locked out of the house. Right then, the cat returns and saves her by entering the house through the cat door and waking up her parents. This, overall is a fairly dramatic story, but between the gentle drawings and the fact that things are kept within certain boundaries, the story never got too scary for Dora. When I refer to boundaries, I refer to how far the author is willing to allow the situation to get out of control. I think a U.S. version of this book would have the little girl actually getting lost in the woods or standing outside in the bitter cold of winter, as opposed to showing her just sitting on her stoop, crying, locked out, but in a fairly resolvable situation, even without the cat’s help (she can just ring the doorbell).Another book, entitled Wee Granny’s Magic Bag, introduces us to a grandmother with a magic bag (I know you would never have guessed that from the title, would you?!?!?). The grandmother uses her bag in the park to help the kids make cupcakes. That’s it, they just make some cupcakes, of course, she does have an oven, some eggs, a telephone booth, a donkey, and more, in her bag. I just feel that had this book been written in the U.S., the bag would have been used for something “bigger”, such as the children being whisked off by some villain and Granny having to use her magic bag to save them with space ships and what not, with granny having been a secret spy all along.Dora’s favorite Picture Kelpies book has been Uan the Little Lamb . In this book, the children find a lost lamb, bring it home, raise it, watch it grow, and then rejoice when it becomes a mother of its own. Really, it is such a gentle story, the plot almost seems to simple to be entertaining, but I cannot tell you how many times that I have had to read this book!

The one negative that I have found with not just Floris Books, but almost all Waldorf-inspired books, is the inability to preview the book, even on Amazon. It can be a bit frustrating to order a book that has a nice a cover and synopsis, to then realize once it arrives, that it just isn’t right for you. Most of the time, returning the book costs almost as much as the book cost in the first place! I have found that looking at Floris Books’ catalogues is the best way to get an idea what the books are like. The catalogues show some of the pages of some of the books, give  longer descriptions, and group the books with other similar books, so if you know you liked one book in a group, you will probably like another book in the same group.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Maureen

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Some Pre-order Goodies

I’ve let this weekly column slide while I was trying to find my way around the world of Waldorf. I now feel like I’m pretty centered with Waldorf-inspired education and am ready to get back to my regularly-scheduled business. This week, both Dora and I received a book that we had been eagerly anticipating the release of. Dora’s book was Emeraldalicious, the latest book from the Pinkalicious series, by Victoria Kann. Ironically, Dora had just last week started wanting to read this series over and over again and then this book arrived today. Before we even opened the book, Dora spent a good deal of time “oohing” and “aahing” over the pretty glittery cover. This book features a lot of hearts, so at first I thought it might have been released with Valentine’s Day in mind, but after reading it, I decided that the publishers were probably shooting more for Earth Day, though it also conveys some St. Patrick’s Day ambiance. The basic storyline is that Pinkalicious and her brother, Peter, are walking through the park and stumble upon a part of the park that has been turned into a dump. They use magic to clean up the dump, while having a wonderfully-imaginative fun at the same time. I still stand by my belief that, though Pinkalicious seems like she espouses all of the stereotypes that I try to shield Dora from, Pinkalicious actually is a strong female role model, who allows girls AND boys to enjoy the “traditionally feminine” side of things.

Meanwhile, I happily received my pre-order of Making Peg Dolls, by Margaret Bloom, earlier than the original release date. The book is hard-covered and much heftier than I was expecting, based on the image and other similar books that I have purchased (it’s 189 pages long!). As I have continued to struggle to come up with appropriate head coverings for our “month gnomes”, I was excited to see that this book offers a plethora of inspirational ideas. If you’re at all interested in making peg dolls for the children in your life, this book will answer any questions you have, while providing lots of good ideas for dolls for every season and many festivals of the year (plus a couple of examples of using peg dolls for storytelling).

What about you? Have you been reading any good books lately?

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Maureen

Labels: Arts and Crafts, Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Our Christmas Book Basket

Christmas Book Basket

Recently, Secunda was roughhousing with Dora and they accidentally ripped two of our wall bookshelves off the wall. In all honesty, I was kind of relieved. The shelves were not cheap and were from a very popular children’s furniture manufacturer, but Dora’s books were always falling forward off the shelves (they were like the rain gutter shelves that you see all over Pinterest). So now, I am highlighting special books for Dora by using book baskets (we still have regular shelves-full of books). Thus far, the baskets are easier for Dora to access, but don’t seem to grab her attention as well. So I’m going to try to work on locating them in more eye-catching places. In the interim, I thought I would share some of our favorites from our Christmas book basket.

A St. Nicholas Story: The Fiercest Little Animal In The Forest, by Terri Reinhart, is a new-to-us book. The book contains some definite religious undertones, which you  may or may not feel comfortable with, so I recommend that you read through it before passing it on to your children. The story is about the real St. Nicholas, who “tames” a pine marten to use it help deliver gifts to the needy. The illustrations in this book are superb and the story is a sweet one. Since it is a forest-based story, it was an immediate hit with Dora. She loves to re-enact stories with puppets and we have a good set of forest creatures.

In our household, anything that combines fairies with Christmas is bound to be a hit. So, needless to say, Little Fairy’s Christmas, by Daniela Drescher, has been a popular Christmas read with Dora this year. In it, Little Fairy gets lost and her wings freeze. She receives some help from some forest friends and finds a small elf boy, who is also lost. The two are rescued by Father Christmas, who takes them to the elf boy’s house, where Little Fairy decides to stay for the winter.  I have to say that Daniela Drescher has become my new favorite children’s author and illustrator. Were this story to have no words, it would still be a treasure to behold.

Continuing along with nature-themed Christmas books, in The Snow Tree, by Caroline Repchuk, a small black bear cub wakes to find the world covered in white. The local animals, however, come one by one to bring a piece of nature to decorate a tree with. Each animal contributes a different colored item and tells what the items represent. In the end, the bear is left to guard the tree. Not only is this story endearing and the illustrations wonderfully realistic, but all of the pages have raised relief designs that provide a texture that Dora couldn’t resist gently rubbing her fingers over.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas, by Holly Hobbie, celebrates what I consider to be the most important part of Christmas, being gathered together. Toot, as usual, has been gallivanting around the world, but has promised Puddle that he will be home in time for Christmas. Life seems to conspire against Toot getting home for Christmas, but then a mysterious stranger provides a miracle, in the form of a ride home.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas, by Karma Wilson, stars the bear from Bear Snores On series. It is another truly sweet story about Bear’s friends keeping Bear awake from hibernation long enough to enjoy Christmas. An emphasis is placed on traditions and giving, more than on receiving, gifts. The illustrations are as beautiful as those contained in the rest of the series. It also has been a fun story to re-enact with our forest puppets.

I have to say that I have enjoyed having some different Christmas reads this year. I’ve read over and over, so many of the popular children’s Christmas books with my older children, so it is a Christmas gift for me just to be able to read something new.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Christmas, Literature, Winter
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Our November Nature Study Poem

Thanks to the inspiration of Charlotte Mason, I have been adding a lot more poetry to our homeschool. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how receptive to poetry Dora has become. In addition to our A, B, C, poems and our weekly poems, I’ve decided to read one poem a month about nature (I will read it multiple times during the month, of course). This first year is going to be easy, as I am using poetry from Around the Year: A Picture Book, by Elsa Beskow, which has one poem for each month of the year. Though I may excerpt her poetry here, I cannot emphasize enough that these poems are meant to be read while enjoying the illustrations that accompany each poem in the book. The poem we are reading this month is, strangely enough, entitled “November”.

Grey is November,
cold as cold.
Stormy November,
wind and rain.
No snow.
No ice.
No glittering sun.
Grey is November,
except by the bright fire
with a story,
a cushion for the cat,
the dark shut outside
and the light in flames
where mysteries lie
and we dream.

This poem really doesn’t gel with my idea of November. Firstly, autumn’s colors are still lingering and the gray has not quite settled in for the season yet. Secondly, I find November to be such a month of expectancy, a month of pre-fervor, would you, for the holidays, that I don’t think it matters much what the weather is like outside (assuming that one is not in the path of the likes of Hurricane Sandy). So I cannot think of November as anything, but cheerful, but that is me… I know certain other locals whom are already bemoaning the 21 days of rain that we’ve endured this fall (I’ve been told by the aforementioned locals that it is 21 days, but have not bothered to confirm this figure myself). Such locals, who have already cast their eyes towards warmer shores, would probably feel that this poem is quite appropriate for November. I do not mean to mock these locals by the way, the gray days here used to cause me into all sorts of despair, then one day, I suddenly found myself embracing them. What about you, do you feel that November is depressingly gray or do you like it?

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature, Nature Study
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–A Whole World of People

This week, Dora and I began an official study of geography. We will be covering the seven continents, using geography boxes, but I first wanted to give her a general introduction to geography. We started with a couple of books that introduced her to the idea that there are people all over the world who are so much like us, while being so different from us at the same time. She is very familiar with cultural differences, thanks to our living in a very multicultural area, but the idea that there are people far, far away from us, is very new to her. Our first book, by Mem Fox, was Whoever You Are. The books’ illustrations are a bit unusual, bordering on strange at times. Still, strange illustrations do not make the book bad, just a bit abstract. Both of us have really enjoyed the book. Dora has been very intrigued by the various children with skinned knees and the page where the mom (grandma? aunt?) saying “good-bye” to the child, with tears in both of their eyes.

We also read the book, People, by Peter Spier. This award-winning book is an excellent jumping-off point for teaching children just how diverse our world is. Dora likes to just sit and look through the book and to see what things people in various places do and eat. I believe that this book addresses many important issues at a level that children can understand, but I do want to issue a couple of warnings about this book.

People 4

Firstly, the title page, has a naked man and woman on it, showing their backsides. I am guessing they are supposed to be Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden??? We actually find the image to be quite amusing, but we are liberal heathens and I did not want anyone to read this book, based on my recommendation, and be offended. People - 1

There is also a picture of a grave, with a sentence that that discusses the fact that all humans die. I warn you about this, as death may not be a topic you want to discuss with your child right now. Dora finds the idea that I will die one day to be extremely distressing. I don’t think that she has yet realized that she, too, will die one day. Since she gets so upset whenever she thinks of me dying, I just briskly skim that page and move on when we read the book. Since she has never been to a funeral, I do not think that she comprehends what she is seeing when she looks at the image. People - 3

There is also an illustration of extreme poverty, which you may or may not feel comfortable with exposing your child to at this point in time. For my part, I tried to point out the differences between the image of the poor area and where we live. I also tried to discuss with her the extreme poverty I witnessed on a trip to Mazatlan. This concept seemed to be a bit too esoteric for Dora and I’m pretty sure that all she heard was “blah, blah, blah, blah”, but I tried.

People - 2Finally, there is an image of group of kids bullying a girl, which Dora found to be upsetting. Once again., I mention this as I don’t want to recommend a book and have people be unpleasantly surprised. I feel that the positives of this book far out-weigh any of the negatives, but I want to have full disclosure, if that is at all possible.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Homeschool Mother’s Journal–Adapting to a New Schedule

Ladybug Girl Costume 2

In my life this week…Halloween was pretty non-eventful, Dora dressed as Ladybug Girl and while everyone thought she made a cute ladybug, I was very disappointed that no one had heard of Ladybug Girl.

Shaving Cream Car Wash

Mr. Mo’s new job is very demanding, though he enjoys it much more than his previous position. So, for all intents and purposes, I have become a single parent during the work week. Fortunately, at this point in time, he is not having to work weekends. I also only have one little now, so it is not quite as exhausting as it used to be. Between Mr. Mo’s work schedule and the bad weather starting up, I realized that I had started to wander into “overscheduled” mode. It became apparent that both Dora and I need one day a week as a “just-stay-home day”. In fact, we stayed home almost all of yesterday and today and I was inspired by this pin to set up a shaving cream car wash for Dora. She spent hours playing with it! It was a great sensorial experience, all her toy cars got cleaned, and I was able to do some house cleaning.

In our homeschool this week… I had posted previously that Dora raised her own pumpkin this year. We also got several pumpkins from other classes and events, but Dora didn’t want to carve any of them. So, I asked her if she would like to try to grow pumpkins from the pumpkin she planted last spring, like the boy in Pumpkin Jack did. She was quite excited to do it, so we just tossed her pumpkin into one of our raised beds. Hopefully, this experiment will work, despite the pumpkin not being carved. Gohan Was Promoted to Green Belt

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Gohan had his taekwondo belt test over the weekend and it ran forever, but he was promoted to green belt!

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…This is actually a poem. I have started reading a select poem to Dora every week, several times a week. This particular poem was very relevant to our life. We have had a lot of chickadees in our backyard and the best that we can tell, they appear to be eating up all of the grass seed that we so carefully sowed a few weeks back! This poem comes from A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme, which I have found to be an excellent collection of children’s poetry for all occasions. The author of this poem is unknown.

We’ve ploughed our fields
We’ve sown our seed
We’ve made all neat and gay.
       Then take a bit, and leave a bit
       Away, birds, away!

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Graphic Novel Collections of Poe Stories

I don’t post much about what Gohan has been reading, just because he doesn’t read anywhere near as many books as I read to Dora. This is partly because his books are so much longer and partly because he doesn’t read much for pleasure due to the fact that he has severe language-based learning disabilities. The only things that he reads for pleasure is manga. After last year’s success with the Cartoon History of the Universe, I had planned to have him spend this year reading graphic versions of the books that are at his grade level. His only request was there be some  mysteries. When I mentioned Edgar Allen Poe, he was excited about reading Poe’s stories. I ordered two graphic novel collections of Poe’s short stories, but had not realized that they were written in the original language, just with illustrations. He had no problem with reading the stories though and having read them myself, I can assure you that the pictures were not enough to understand the story without having some major reading comprehension going on. I was very excited to realize how far he has come!

The other graphic novels I purchased, ended up being dumbed-down versions of the original novels. One of these novels was so confusing that I couldn’t even understand it, even though I was VERY familiar with the novel. Of course, after reading all of Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on twaddle, I did not feel comfortable having Gohan reading such books. Honestly, even with out Mason’s words of wisdom, I felt these books were an insult to his intelligence. So at this point, given his success with reading Poe, I ordered Norton’s Anthology of World Literature and plan to take more of a Charlotte Mason approach to literature with him. If we need to read the selections out loud together, so be it. Also, I plan to have him narrate a summary of the reading selection, rather than have him answer questions, to check for comprehension. After reading Charlotte Mason’s arguments for narration, I not only agreed with her, but also remembered that Primo, who also has a language-based learning disorder, but without dyslexia, had a really hard time with summary. His literature summaries were often as long as the original selection. So if I can just get Gohan to summarize his reading selections into 5-7 complete sentences, with proper grammar, I will be quite happy.

Given that Halloween is fast approaching, I found it rather ironic that the Poe books were the only ones that I felt were adequate to meet Gohan’s needs. Gohan, who tends to be a bit skittish about horror movies and so forth, had no problem with the stories, but they kind of freaked me out. In particular, there was a story about mesmerizing a man right at the moment of death, which I had never read before, that gave me the willies.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Autumn and Halloween Books

We’ve been reading several books about fall and Halloween over the last few weeks, but only a few have really stood out to us as being excellent books. Our favorite book has been Pumpkin Jack. I was a little worried that the image on the cover would scare Dora and she was a bit apprehensive about the book, but as we read the book and learned that Jack’s face was the result of him decaying, the illustration no longer scared her. What we liked about this book was that it showed how a boy’s favorite pumpkin could bring new pumpkins the following year, via the life cycle of a pumpkin. Now Dora is very excited to plant the seeds from the pumpkin that she grew this year, to grow even more pumpkins next year.

The next book that we really enjoyed was Count Down to Fall, written by Frank Hawk and Illustrated by Sherry Neidigh. The illustrations in this book are amazing. We didn’t really focus on the counting aspect of the book. Instead, we loved reading about the different trees and their leaves. I also loved the way the book used short poems to discuss the trees, as I am trying to use more poetry to Dora. Since reading the book, we’ve gone on leaf hunts, trying to find all of the types of the leaves and trees that the book discussed. Thus far, we have only found three of the trees, but it has been raining really hard here, so we haven’t been able to spend as much time looking as we’d have liked.

Finally, we enjoyed a book by Don Freeman, which was published posthumously, Earl the Squirrel. Earl is a squirrel who is friends with a girl named Jill. When Earl’s mother decides that it is time for Earl to start finding acorns on his own, Earl has no idea how to go about doing this. So he turns to his friend Jill, who gives him an acorn and a nut cracker. This does not go over well with Earl’s mother, who insists that he return the nutcracker. When Earl returns the nutcracker to Jill, she gives Earl a red scarf, which also does not go over well with Earl’s mother. Finally, Earl uses the scarf in an unexpected way to find some of the best tasting acorns that his mother has ever eaten and she is quite proud of him.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Autumn, Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff