Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

Book Discoveries this Week: From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler April 4, 2013

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 5:03 pm

This year for our bedtime reading, Miss M and I have mostly read books to correlate with our American History studies.    Before beginning a serious read-aloud about the Civil War, however, Miss M and I decided to pick something more on the “light and fun” side of things.

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg is a book I am mrs_basil_frankweilernearly certain I read in elementary school, though before we started reading I couldn’t really remember much about it other than it had something to do with kids running away to an art museum.

Claudia and Jamie are two kids from the suburbs who decide to run away together.  Claudia is the instigator in this effort, and she wants not just to run away to some random place — she chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art as her destination.  Claudia is dissatisfied with all the typical things — life is boring, parents are unfair, allowance is too small, brothers (except for Jamie, apparently) are too annoying.   She and Jamie leave for school one day with instrument cases packed with clothes, and head for the city instead of the school building.

The two kids manage to hide well enough in the museum to not get caught each night, and find a large old bed to sleep in.   They become intrigued by the mystery of a statue that the museum purchased at a bargain price, and may have sculpted by Michelangelo.  Claudia and Jamie hope they can solve the mystery of the statue — a quest that takes over any other reason they may have run away.

Miss M and I had a good time with this book — it was hard to put down each night at bedtime (always the sign of a good book!).  I’m sure Miss M could relate to many of Claudia’s complaints about life (especially the part about the brothers!).  I think there is something appealing at any age to hiding somewhere exciting like a museum and getting away with it!  Miss M and I had a great discussion about how a story like this might have been somewhat realistic in the 1960s when this book was published (It won the Newberry in 1968), it could probably not happen now — art museums have much more sophisticated security systems these days!

This is a bit of a “finding yourself” sort of a story as well.  Claudia wrestles with why she really wanted to run away — what her purpose was in it and what she wanted to accomplish.  I found Claudia to be very relate-able as a character — when she is a bad mood or frustrated she “needs an argument.” I may or may not resemble that characteristic.  😉 I’m sure I must have really enjoyed it as a child as well.

From the Mixed Up Files… would be another great choice for a mid to upper elementary student to read alone, but it made a very enjoyable read-aloud to share together too.

I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!


Book Discoveries this Week: Trouble Don’t Last March 24, 2013

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:43 pm

For our US History studies, we’re currently doing a short unit on slavery and the Underground Railroad before moving on to the Civil War.  I had a little bit harder time selecting a longer read aloud to go along with this unit.  I checked my usual sources, and I found plenty of picture books…and many chapter books that seemed a bit too mature for Miss M, my third grader.   I was somewhat interested in Brady by Jean Fritz (since we have enjoyed many of her other books), but I wasn’t sure when that book would arrive since I was on a waiting list for one of two copies our library system owns of that title.

I decided to go with a recommendation I got on a forum for Trouble Don’t Last by Shelley Pearsall.   Set in 1859, Trouble Don’t Last tells the story of two slaves running away from a master in Kentucky.

Samuel is an 11-year-old boy who never planned on running away.  He is awakened in the trouble don't lastmiddle of the night by Harrison, a much older slave, and dragged along a bit unwillingly as the two sneak away from their master’s farm.   The entire book is the story of their journey — hiding in trees and bushes, being helped across the river to Ohio by a former slave, being hidden in a cellar, a church and a peddler’s wagon on the underground railroad, stumbling into a settlement of free black people (some people here are helpful while others are downright unfriendly), and even hiding on a real railroad car to move more quickly toward freedom in Canada.

Trouble Don’t Last definitely kept us intrigued and wondering what would happen next on Samuel and Harrison’s journey.  Pearsall also reveals more about each of the main characters as they continue on their journey — their “back-story” and their connection to one another.   I thought this book was a nice mix of describing some of the horror that happened to slaves (such as being beaten or whipped), while not going overboard with descriptions that would not be appropriate for an elementary school audience.   These are brought in as stories of what happened to Harrison and others in the past — not emotionally-charged incidents happening during the time frame of the story (something I was concerned about with other books on this topic I passed over).

Before this unit in our history studies, I have to admit I did not know very much about this topic.  With just a cursory understanding of the Underground Railroad, it was easy for me to have the impression this was something super-well organized that everyone who needed to know about it somehow just knew how the operation worked.  Of course, that was not the case!  The Underground Railroad was a broad network of individuals who mostly didn’t know each other and maybe were just barely willing to do their part.  Slaves had just heard vague stories and knew maybe a certain direction to head — they may not have even known if they would get help or not on the way.

Trouble Don’t Last portrays that quite well — Samuel and Harrison know to head north (and, as it turns out, do have a particular destination in Canada in mind), and aren’t quite sure how they will make it all the way to freedom.   They are as surprised as anyone to end up in the basement of a “fancy white people’s church” or to be hiding on a railroad car — they’ve never even seen a real train before!  Some of the people helping them seem to have their reservations about their part in helping slaves to freedom — the widow just across the border in Ohio helps because she thinks it what her dead husband would want her to do.  A peddler helping the escaping slaves seems to have his own angle as well and at any sign of trouble is eager to be done with them.

Overall, I was quite pleased with this choice for a read-aloud on the topic of the Underground Railroad.  We started a second book to correlate with this unit that we were less pleased with and did not finish — but that’s maybe a topic for another post.  After an intense couple of weeks of reading Trouble Don’t Last, as well as a large stack of picture books on slavery and the Underground Railroad, Miss M was ready to move on and asked we not start another read-aloud on this topic.   Brady by Jean Fritz finally did arrive at our library — I guess I may take a look at it myself and make note of whether we will read it at a future time.

I’m linking up with read-aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!


Book Discoveries This Week: Bound for Oregon February 28, 2013

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:10 pm

When many of us parents hear the words “Oregon Trail” (especially those of us who were in elementary school in the mid to late 80s), we immediately think of the text-and-minimal-graphics computer game we played on the Apple IIe at school.  Remember buying your supplies, heading out on the trail, trying to shoot animals, and hoping no one would die? I’m not sure if I ever made it to Oregon in that game.  I think I typically either killed off my characters, got bored or ran out of time before I could “win” by making it to the end of the trail.

Since I somehow missed out on having any pre-Civil War American History in school, my knowledge of the Oregon Trail pretty much started and ended with that game.  🙂  For our current US History unit (1815-1860, with a focus on the pioneers), I knew I wanted a book that would take us in depth on the subject.  Miss M read a few non-fiction selections, and I chose Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen as a bedtime read-aloud.

Bound for Oregon is a story told as a first-person narrative of Mary Ellen Todd, a 1o year bound for oregonold girl who makes the journey with her family along the Oregon Trail in 1852.   Mary Ellen and her family make new friends and part with them again, deal with sickness, difficult river crossings, trouble with their animals, unfriendly Indians, bad weather and difficult terrain — all the typical challenges and hardships that most pioneering families face as they journeyed thousands of miles across the plains and mountains on their way to Oregon and California.

Miss M and I definitely found this book interesting, though I didn’t think it had some of the same compelling qualities that some of our other read-alouds have had this year.   While hardship and even death (of friends the Todds meet along the way) are present in the story, there was little doubt in my mind of what was going to happen in the end.   I just “knew” that this story would end up happily with the Todd family arriving in Oregon (without having to read the last chapter first or at least early…something I’ve actually done with some books!).   In some ways I guess that makes this book more “educational” about what life was like on the trail for average pioneers who made the journey successfully.

As I read this book I would have guessed that Mary Ellen and her family were a neat conglomeration of average families on the Oregon Trail created for this book.  So I was a bit surprised to learn in reading the author’s note at the end of the book that Bound for Oregon is based on a true story — recollections that Mary Ellen shared with her children and grandchildren that were eventually written down and preserved.

In the end I would say that Bound for Oregon fit a nice spot in our historical fiction read-aloud list for the year,   but it’s not one that I would say is a must-read.

I’m linking up with…


Book Discoveries this Week: The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich February 7, 2013

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 5:38 am

We’re back to a historical fiction read aloud to match up with our US History studies with birchbark houseThe Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich, the story of an Ojibwa girl living on what is now called Madeline Island in about 1847.

Omakayas was born on another Island in Lake Superior — but her family and everyone else on her island died in an outbreak of smallpox.  Little Omakayas was rescued by a gruff older woman, and taken in by a family who raises her as their own.   Omakayas is seven years old when the story begins, and The Birchbark House follows one year of her life through ups and downs, joys and sorrows.

We really enjoyed the rhythm of the passing seasons as we read this book, and the details of mid-nineteenth century American Indian life.  Omakayas’ family is still living a traditional life for the most part, as their ancestors have done for centuries…yet the influence of the white men is creeping in, and will end up changing her family’s life in irrevocable ways.

I am not a reader who is easily emotionally moved by sadness in books that I read.  It’s not that I don’t empathize characters experiencing tragedy…but I don’t usually feel those emotions in a particularly deep way.    This was not the case for me with Birchbark House. I cried during a particularly sad part of the story when I was reading it outloud.  Neither Miss M nor I could recall that ever happening before!  A member of Omakayas’ family dies, and I could just imagine and even feel how sad it would be to be in that circumstance.  (Miss M didn’t react so strongly — she just said “oh, I guess that would be sad.”  I had to have a good cry even after we were done reading for that night!).

A day or two later as we finished the book, I was gushing to Tony about how much I enjoyed it.  His comment was “So, it redeemed itself after that sad part, huh?”  I told him that no, the sad part was sad but really good too.    In the end, the sorrow that Omakayas feels shapes her and how she experiences life.  She became a very real character to me — one that I found myself day dreaming about when we weren’t reading the book…Something I haven’t done with too many children’s books I have read with Miss M.

Needless to say, I am marking this as one of my favorite books we’ve read so far this school year (if not the favorite so far).   Miss M and I both agreed to ditch our pre-planned reading list for a bit and read at least the next book in Erdrich’s four book series.   So far, we’re enjoying The Game of Silence just as much.

I’m linking up with Read Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!


Book Discoveries This Week: Cheaper by the Dozen January 31, 2013

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 5:45 am

When I select our chapter book read-alouds for the year, I typically reference several different lists of literature to find some of the best titles recommended for a particular age group.  I’ve very rarely found myself in the position of feeling like I had made a potentially questionable choice as far as the appropriateness of a book for my kids.

I picked up a copy of Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth cheaper by the dozenCarey at one of the many book sales I’ve attended in recent years — I think I vaguely recalled having seen it on one of my book lists…then seeing it on my shelf when I was making my list to read-aloud to Miss M, I added it since we already had a copy.

Overall, I guess it was an okay choice to read — Miss M thought it was really funny (as did I).  But if I would have known a bit more about the content of the book, I think I would have saved it for when Miss M was just a bit older.

Cheaper by the Dozen is a biographical tale about the family of famous efficiency experts Frank and Lillian Gilbreth.   Mr. Gilbreth has many useful ideas for improving efficiency in factories and other workplaces, and he tries to incorporate some of those ideas at home…with predictably funny results.  Of course, life in general with a family of 12 kids is bound to be funny!  The book takes place in the early 20th century, and some of the antics of the Gilbreth family seem especially funny now, considering “modern” sensibilities — like tonsils removed assembly line style at home, and the whole troop of children piled seemingly one on top of another in the back of the family car with two crying babies on mom’s lap.

The chapters of the book are somewhat thematic, while there is also a bit of time progression as the book continues on — stories of first dates and learning to drive are found more toward the end of the book.

Speaking of those first dates…this gets into a few things I found “questionable” about the content of this book — at least when considering at as read aloud for an 8.5 year old.   As the girls of the family get to be teenagers, there is discussion about what they might be doing with their boyfriends.  Nothing graphic of course…but I really don’t need to be explaining “necking and petting” to my 3rd grader.

There’s also a “peeping Tom” who wants to watch one of the girls through the window as she puts on her pajamas, and a lady on a birth control crusade who is sent to the Gilbreth home as a joke by a friend who has a large brood of children herself.  Not awful topics to be discussing with my daughter…but definitely different than the topics our read-alouds usually bring up.

Members of the family take the Lord’s name in vain regularly — luckily this is pretty easy to edit out, though I forgot a few times and saw a pretty surprised look on Miss M’s face (since that’s not something that would be acceptable in our home)!

After we finished the book I started to wonder whether I imagined ever having seen Cheaper by the Dozen on a list of recommended reading for elementary age students.  A little bit of research revealed that this title used to be included on Sonlight’s Core E list (for approximately 4th grade), but was discontinued from their curriculum.   Too many complaints about the content, perhaps?!?

And, in case you were wondering, it seems like the more recent Steve Martin movie of the same title bears little resemblance to the classic book.  A film of the same title made in the 1950s is apparently more faithful to the original — I have have a DVD of that movie waiting for me on the reserve shelf at the library.  🙂 I’m assuming a 1950s movie will be pretty family friendly for a movie night this weekend (but I probably should research that a bit more just to be sure!)

I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!


Book Discoveries this Week: Three Revolutionary War Titles November 1, 2012

Filed under: Books,History — kirstenjoyhill @ 3:10 pm
Tags: ,

In our US History studies this year we’ve hit the Revolutionary War period, and we’ve already completed a few read-alouds related to this theme.

I hadn’t necessarily intended for all my bedtime read-alouds with Miss M to be focused around our history themes, but so far that has been the case.  After finishing The Witch of Blackbird Pond, I thought we would go for non-history read aloud.  We read one chapter of The Wind in the Willows, and neither of us really liked it.  I know it’s a classic, but I wasn’t impressed after that short trial.  I checked out a “Classic Starts” abridged version, and I may assign that to Miss M at some point in the near future.

I needed a new read-aloud more quickly than I expected, but I didn’t have some of the other history-related titles for Miss M handy (and she requested another history read-aloud).  So, I looked at All Through the Ages to see if I could find something that I could acquire as a free ebook.  A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia by Alice Turner Curtiss seemed to fit the bill, so I downloaded it from Amazon.

A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia takes place in British-occupied Philadelphia in 1778.  Ten year old Ruth Pennell is the “little maid” of this book (there are several other “Little Maid” titles by the same author featuring different girls in different cities).  As the story opens, Ruth’s aunt is staying with her while her mother is away caring for an ill relative and her Father is with General Washington’s army — and Ruth’s dog is missing.  Ruth takes matters into her own hands to find the dog (and meets an important figure in the British army in the process!).  She has a series of other adventures along with a few of her friends that culminate in her very own opportunity to help the Patriots in the war effort.

Miss M and I generally both like these kind of  “episodic” stories about young girls and their adventures, and this was no exception.  I think I can see, though, why this one maybe didn’t survive the test of time to become a well-known classic.  Compared to more modern works (or even more “classic” older books), the tone of A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia was a bit moralistic at times.  Ruth got herself into a bit of trouble with some of her adventures, and the author was not particularly subtle about what lesson Ruth (and the readers of the story) was supposed to learn about asking permission to do things, borrowing things that belong to others or letting a grown-up know where you are going!

These obvious moral lessons didn’t seem to bother Miss M at all — she was very eager to read other titles in this series (at least four of which were available free in Kindle format at — I haven’t looked around to see if any of the other titles in the series are available as free ebooks).

After A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia, we moved on to Toliver’s Secret by Esther Wood Brady.   Ellen Toliver is another 10 year old girl, this time living in New York City (also occupied by the British).  Though I didn’t catch a date in this story, from the events described I would guess it perhaps takes place in 1777.     Ellen is shocked to learn that her Grandfather is a spy for the patriots.   When Grandfather is injured and can’t take a secret message across the river, he asks Ellen to take his place.   It was supposed to be a simple mission of riding across the river with the merchants and finding Grandfather’s friend at a tavern.  Nothing goes according to plan, however, and typically-timid Ellen is faced with a very difficult and dangerous journey.

This was a quick and exciting read for Miss M and I.  She could have easily read it on her own (and did read a couple chapters out-loud one night while I put away my laundry!), I enjoyed sharing it together with her.

After finishing this book we started another Revolutionary spy tale – Sophia’s War by Avi.  This is a bit more mature and complex story.  We’re only a few chapters into it, and I’m eager to find out how this book will develop.

Finally, I have a picture book read aloud to share:  Those Rebels, John & Tom, by Barbara Kerley, Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham.   Thanks to Amy @ Hope is the Word for the recommendation of this title! We have quite a few picture books from this era in our book basket, but Miss M has been reading most of them independently, and the boys haven’t been picking them on their own.  Finally this week I asked Mr. E to pick a book from the history book basket as a part of his school time, and Mr K and Miss M decided to listen as well.  Those Rebels, John and Tom is a biography of two famously different friends — Thomas Jefferson and John Adams who put aside their differences for the good of a new nation.   I loved Kerley’s writing style — it’s pretty lighthearted for a serious topic, which makes it all the more fun for everyone listening to the book.     The illustrations are a bit in the style of political cartoons, and the kids enjoyed looking for some of the details in the pictures.

We’re knee deep in Revolutionary War books around here, so I’m sure I’ll have more to share in future weeks!

I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!


Book Discoveries this Week: Sign of the Beaver and The Matchlock Gun October 26, 2012

Filed under: Books,History — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:01 am

For the past couple of years, most of our longer read-alouds have happened at bedtime, with just me and Miss M.  Tony reads picture books to the boys while I try and read a chapter or two to Miss M of our current book.  This year, I’m trying to incorporate Mr. E into a few more chapter book read-alouds.  What seems to be working so far is to start reading to the kids during a meal or snack.  If the book is engaging enough, Mr. E and Miss M will both be more than happy to keep listening even after the food is gone.  Mr. K will usually wander away…but he is only three and a half, so I don’t really expect a huge degree of interest in books with few pictures.  🙂

When I first started reading The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare, both Miss M and Mr. E begged for chapter after chapter of reading in the very fist sitting.  Our pace slowed down after that, but both of them really enjoyed this book.

In The Sign of the Beaver, 13 year old Matt and his father have traveled to Maine to get land and build a cabin in the late 1700’s.  With the cabin built, Matt’s father leaves to retrieve the rest of their family while Matt stays behind to guard the cabin.  While alone in the wilderness, Matt faces challenging circumstances — and also finds an unlikely friendship with an Indian boy named Attean.

Unlike many historical fiction novels set in early American history, this book portrays a really positive relationship between Native Americans and settlers — even if it is just one young settler in this story.  Attean has things to learn from Matt as Matt tries to teach him to read English.  But Matt seems to learn far more as he learns from Attean how to survive in the wilderness with limited supplies.

This might be my favorite read-aloud so far of this school year.  I think the kids might agree — it was one of those kind of books that make you a bit sad at the end that the story is already over.

I made a conscious decision to read The Sign of the Beaver to the kids before reading them The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds. These two books take place in the same general time frame, but The Matchlock Gun is set in a time and place of armed conflict between settlers and Indians.  This short chapter book (or you could possibly call it a long picture book), tells the story of the Van Alstyne family near Albany, New York around 1757.  As Teunis Van Alstyne leaves to do his duty with the village militia, Edward and his mother and sister are left behind on the family farm to defend it against the possibility of attacking Indians.  What seems like a remote possibility at first becomes more and more real as the story progresses, to the point where Edward must truly use his Grandfather’s Matchlock gun than even his father has never fired.

The boys in particular seemed to enjoy the suspense and excitement of this story (Mr K even listened, thanks in part to lots of pictures and a bowl of popcorn!), while Miss M thought it was just “okay”.

This Newberry Award winner published in 1941 is not without controversy.  Many reviewers on Amazon labeled this book as racist — and I have to admit, I can kind of see why.  The illustrations are kind of “cartoonish” in a way — playing on the fears of what scared settlers probably saw in their minds’ eye as they imagined the possibility of being attacked by local Indians.  There is also one paragraph in particular that describes how Gertrude Van Alstyne saw the Indians coming through the woods , and describes them as looking less than human.  I will admit, I skipped this paragraph when reading out loud to the kids.

The Matchlock Gun is based on a true story that was handed down through the Van Alstyne  family.  You can imagine that as a story like this of frightening attack is told time and time again, the tone of the story would be of fear and the heroism of the boy who defended his family — not of the potential grievances the Native Americans had against the settlers, or of other nuances of the French and Indian wars.   So given that perspective, and the age of the book, I feel like I can forgive its potential offenses.   But, this is why I read this book to the kids after Sign of the Beaver — so we could discuss how different each boy’s experience was with the Native Americans and why.

I’m linking up with Read Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!


Book Discoveries this Week: Margaret Pumphrey’s Pilgrim Stories September 13, 2012

Filed under: Books,History — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:46 pm

As we were wrapping up our unit on Native Americans and Explorers last week, we needed a new read aloud.  We stopped our last one mid-way through due to boredom.  I pulled out a couple of books for our next topic (early settlers/colonists) and a couple non-history-related read-alouds and let Miss M pick.  She picked Margaret Pumphrey’s Pilgrim Stories, revised and expanded by Elvajean Hall.  It’s this edition on amazon.   Apparently there are at least a couple modern revisions/expansions of this 1910 work available.  I can’t compare this edition to the others since I don’t have any of those on hand.

This wasn’t a book that I originally had on my American History book list.   However when I saw it at the Half Price books tent sale for a buck, it was a no-brainer to pick it up.  There is no shortage of books about the pilgrims.  Without much effort, I feel like half our history book basket is about Pilgrims, the Mayflower or the first Thanksgiving.

Margaret Pumphrey’s Pilgrim Stories turned out to be a fine opening for our studies on this topic.  It’s a fairly easy-to-read chapter book with 17 short chapters.  I could have very easily handed it over to Miss M for her to read herself.  But I’m glad I didn’t.  The book opens in 1606 with Queen Anne visiting what turns out to be the home of some of the separatists.  A young girl gives away the secret that her family worships God not in the official church, but in their own meeting.   Soon the separatists are hiding and being even more secretive to avoid capture by the authorities.    Their journey takes them to Holland for several years as they pursue religious freedom (I must have slept through that part of elementary school history class – I didn’t know they went to Holland first!), before they eventually join with many “strangers” to take the journey to the New World.

In Pilgrim Stories we learn not only what the Pilgrim mothers and fathers were doing, but what the children were up to also –some making trouble and getting in the way, others being helpful and brave.  The book follows the story of the Pilgrims through the first Thanksgiving and the arrival of another ship from England (The Fortune) shortly after.

As I put together our reading list for this unit, I noticed that many books leave the story there.  I’ve found a lot of books about Jamestown and Plymouth, and then many more books that pick up the story of life in the colonies in the 1700’s.

We’re filling in the pieces of what life might have been like in New England about 15 years after the first Pilgrims landed in our next read-aloud: Puritan Adventure by Lois Lenski.  I’m sure I’ll be sharing more about that book for a future Book Discoveries post.

I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!


Book Discoveries this Week: Om-Kas-Toe and Walk the World’s Rim September 6, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:19 pm

This week we’re finishing up our first “unit” or topic of our US History studies — Native Americans and Explorers.  We did two read-alouds related to this topic.  Maybe I should really only count it as one-and-a-half since we didn’t actually care for the second one well enough to finish it!

Right before our vacation we read Om-Kas-Toe: Blackfeet Twin Captures an Elkdog by Kenneth Thomasma.    Om-Kas-Toe and his sister Twin Girl are very lucky indeed — while both children are not normally allowed to survive when twins are born, their mother works hard and proves she can take care of both babies.  A series of lucky events seems to follow Om in particular, as he finds a very smart bird that he keeps as a pet and this bird leads him to a number of interesting discoveries.

At the time the story opens, the Blackfeet tribe has not yet been introduced to the horse.  Om and an older member of the tribe see a horse for the first time being led by a member of an unfriendly band of Indians.  This strange animal appeared to be large and powerful like an Elk, yet tame like a dog, hence the name “Elkdog”.   Eventually, Om and his sister are lucky enough to capture their tribe’s first Elkdog.  Om is growing up and proving himself responsible and is given the opportunities for even greater adventures and responsibilities.

The kids and I all really enjoyed this book.  I read this book during the day (as opposed to a bedtime read-aloud with Miss M) since I thought the boys would enjoy it too.  While Mr. K (age 3) got bored and wandered off at times, Mr E (age 5) was riveted — especially when Om or other characters in the story used any weapons.  :-).   After the book was over, he even asked if we could purchase a copy for ourselves so we could read it again some time (our copy came from Interlibrary loan — rare for us since our large library system carries almost everything that we want to read!).

Last week I started Walk the World’s Rim by Betty Baker as a history-related bedtime read-aloud with Miss M.  This story follows a young (fictitious) Native American boy from a poor tribe as he sets off on a journey with (real) Spanish explorer Cabaza de Vaca, two fellow Spaniards and a slave.   The party of travelers is taking a long route to Mexico, where they hope riches, honors and luxury await them.    To be honest, Miss M and I were both bored of this book by about half way through.  I skimmed ahead through the rest of the book and didn’t see much in it I was excited to read about.  I found myself hoping to find some excuse to skip reading it.

Since this wasn’t a classic work or a “must read”, I decided it would be okay to *gasp* just not finish it.  We rarely do this, but I didn’t want to waste our time given the long list of potential read-alouds I have for this year. Miss M seemed a bit relieved when I suggested we had the option to not finish the book!

I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!


Book Discoveries this Week: Little House on Rocky Ridge series (books 1-3) August 2, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:14 am

I really like working on a series of books for read-alouds with Miss M in the summer — especially when I already own the books.  It’s nice to just know what comes next and not have to think too hard or work too hard to find the next book.  🙂  Summer read-aloud time can be more sporadic for us since I read to Miss M right before bed, and there are more times of staying up too late to realistically do too much before-bed reading — so it’s nice not to be relying on timing our reading with books arriving from or needing to return to the library.

For this summer we decided on the “Little House on Rock Ridge” series by Roger Lea MacBride — aka The Rose Years series.  This eight book series features Rose, the daughter of beloved “Little House” characters Laura and Almanzo.

The first book in the series, Little House on Rocky Ridge, opens as the Wilders are leaving drought-ridden South Dakota in search of a better life in Missouri.   After their long horse and wagon journey, they need to find the perfect farm and get settled in before cold weather hits.

Once settled in their new farm, called Rocky Ridge, of course, Little Farm in the Ozarks and In the Land of the Big Red Apple continue the story of the family settling in and trying to develop a prosperous farm.  Rose goes to school, makes friends, learns life lessons (all the stuff you might expect in a “Little House” sort of a book).

Fans of the original “Little House” series will probably enjoy these books as well, though they don’t quite have the same classic quality to me as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books.  It’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly what it is that makes me feel that way about these books.  I did find it somewhat tiresome that some incidents from the original series are “re-told” in the Rocky Ridge series books in the form of family stories being told to Rose.  While I’m sure this is helpful background to a small number of readers who didn’t read the other series first, I could have done without those passages.

Unlike many of the books in the original Little House series, the early books in the Rock Ridge series take place one right after another with very little elapsed time in between each book — or no elapsed time in the case of books #3 and #4!  We started book #4, On the Other Side of the Hill, just before the Olympics started (completely distracting us from getting any bedtime reading aloud accomplished!) and it starts literally hours after book #3 ends!  Reading the books one right after another also makes it feel odd that the background of some characters or key incidents are re-told in the text of each book.  I suppose this is necessary for readers who may take longer breaks between each book or jump into the series mid-way, but it felt awkward to me.  I can’t remember any moments like that in the original series (but we did take longer breaks between some of those books, so maybe I’m just forgetting about it!).

While I don’t usually go out of my way to plan any activities to go along with our bedtime read-alouds, I couldn’t resist buying a can of hominy after reading about the Wilder family making hominy in Little Farm in the Ozarks.   Everyone in the family liked this not-common-around-here dish.  We also spied a copy of McGuffey’s Third Reader in a gift shop last week — Rose’s class in school reads out of this book in Little Farm in the Ozarks and Land of the Big Red Apple.  It was fun to show Miss M what Rose’s book would have looked like!

Miss M is thoroughly enjoying these books — to the point where I am wondering if she will complain when we get closer to the end of August and I will want to move on to our new “school year” list of read-alouds.   Maybe I’ll just let her take the rest of the books we don’t read before the end of the summer and she can read them on her own (except that I do kind of want to find out what happens to Rose too!).

I’m linking up with Read Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!