Reading aloud

It was a snowy, blowy day here yesterday, a perfect day for reading aloud, which I spent much of my morning doing! So I thought I’d do a little round-up of each child’s current read-alouds.  The first book is their daytime read-aloud. Rose and James have their own, Christopher and Grace share one since they also share Bookshark World History. The second book is our bedtime read-aloud. And yes, I do still read aloud to all the kids at bedtime – even my fourteen year old!

With Rose (6)
I am reading Caddie Woodlawn with her because Bookshark has Little House in the Big Woods scheduled and we read that not too long ago. She wouldn’t mind re-reading it, but we can’t find it. We had Caddie excerpts one week for her Writing with Ease assignments and she really wanted to hear the whole story. It is a much longer and wordier book than Little House, but so far so good. We are both enjoying it. 
  I can’t believe that we are on the last of the Little House books! The First Four Years is much shorter than the other books in this series, so it will go quickly. I have to do some editing here and there, such as not reading parts about children freezing to death in snow storms. Everyone handles such things differently of course, but I just can’t handle reading such things to a sensitive six year old at bedtime. So I do skip a page here and there. And I have added this to my wishlist for when we finish this series.

With James (9)

I am surprised that The Secret of the Sealed Room has so few reviews on Amazon. We are reading this for Bookshark’s American History 1 and it is one of our favorite books in this level so far. We are really enjoying puzzling out the mystery.  

Edited: We actually finished this book today, doing a double reading because we wanted to know the answer!

James and I have been working our way slowly through the excellent Story of the World series at bedtime and we are now up to the final volume! I was really very interested to see how Susan Wise Bauer would handle some of the tough issues in recent history and so far I have been very pleased. She has done an excellent job in sharing just enough information to get the point across and help kids understand,  but not so much that reading about the Holocaust turns into a traumatic event.  If you are reading this series with a younger reader, I would probably pre-read potentially disturbing sections, but this has been right on target age-wise for James. 
With Christopher (12) and Grace (14)
My kids love reading Greek mythology so The Trojan War is right up their alley. They already know the whole story forwards and backwards but they are enjoying hearing it again. This has been one of our most popular read-alouds so far. My other two are always listening in as well. It is a pretty simple retelling and easy enough to follow. I wish it had a pronunciation guide, because I am always having to ask Grace how to say the names.

With Christopher

He and I were kind of stuck for what to read at bedtime one night, so I grabbed The Children of Green Knowe off the shelf. It is okay so far. It is kind of an odd book in that the writing style is targeted at a young age – probably 6/7, but  parts of the back story are a bit disturbing and seem better suited to older kids. It is definitely a bit young to read with Christopher, but we started it and are interested enough to keep reading.

With Grace

With Grace, I like to read classic books that I think she should experience but is reluctant to read on her own. She is very much into fantasy books, and it is hard to talk her into reading much else, except for her schoolwork. Lately we have been reading Watership Down, which I can’t remember ever having read myself. It just seemed like one of those books you really ought to read. She did balk a little about reading about rabbits, but I asked her to just give it a try for a couple of nights and now we are both enjoying it. I would not read this with a much younger child, as I think they would probably either be bored or disturbed (or both!) by some of the happenings. And yes, it is long! We’ll be reading this one for quite some time.

As far as my own books go, I started a page on the blog for my 52 books challenge where I am planning to list books as I finish them.

Happy reading!

a six-year-old’s book pile

Some of the books that Rose and I have been reading….some for Bookshark K and some just because…..
We just finished reading Johnny Appleseed, The Story of a Legend for Bookshark K. This is a wonderful book! I was sad to see that it is out of print,  because this book is definitely one of Rose’s favorites from this Core so far. We read it over three days and we both loved it. Great story, inspiring man, loads of adventure, and beautiful pictures. We will be re-reading this one for sure!
Also for Bookshark K, we have been reading through The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. This has been so much fun to read again! Bookshark schedules half a chapter per day, but we always finish a story each day, just because we want to find out what happens. I am always struck by just how funny these stories are. I am sure many of the little jokes go right over Rose’s head, but I always appreciate a book that appeals to adults just as much as kids! A true classic.

Rose and I have been reading the Little House series for about a year or so, a chapter at bedtime each night. We are now up to Little Town on the Prairie . I had originally planned to stop reading this series before we hit The Long Winter, thinking the later books would be better read when she is a bit older. But she insisted on continuing, which is fine, I just have to do some on-the-fly editing here and there as I read. The Long Winter had some parts in it that I thought might bother her because she tends to be a bit sensitive, and some parts of Little Town have been a bit wordy and uninteresting to her so I condense it a bit,  but overall we are both really loving this series.

Finally, just for fun, we are squeezing in reading from Roverandom when we can. Did you even know Tolkien had written a book for younger kids? The librarian at our library was pretty surprised when we checked it out. I had to request it from interlibrary loan.  It’s a story about a pet dog who gets changed into a toy, and then changed into an almost- dog who has lots of adventures and then….well I’m not sure exactly what happens next, we are still reading it. It can be a bit wordy in places, so I usually read it for only 15 minutes or so at a time, but it is a great little adventure story.

That’s it for Rose’s bookpile, though I forgot to add that she has been reading Pinocchio with Dad, a very old illustrated copy we picked up…somewhere.  She asked to read it after we read some excerpts from it in Writing with Ease. I suspect we will be adding some Thanksgiving books to her pile soon. And next week maybe I will post someone else’s book pile, because this was fun!

Spring Picture Book Basket

A round-up of old favorites, plus a few new ones…. from our spring picture book basket….

The Leprechaun’s Gold by Pamela Duncan Edwards
Little Cloud by Eric Carle
Pancakes Pancakes! by Eric Carle
Ms. Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

The Whispering Rabbit by Margaret Wise Brown

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown

The Easter Egg by Jan Brett
The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous
The Little Rabbit by Judy Dunn
The Night Before Easter by  Natasha Wing
Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco
Happy spring reading!

Reading Now: Sonlight Core F Read-Alouds

We read so very much around here that I have decided to devote my Friday posts to all things books. We have really been enjoying the Sonlight Core F Read-Alouds this year! I think we have only skipped one so far. These are the ones we have finished, along with just a few notes for each.

Young-Fu of the Upper Yangtze was a bit slow moving. Christopher had trouble sitting still for it at times. But the action picked up nicely towards the end and we learned a lot about life in 1920’s China, seen through the eyes of a young apprentice struggling to make his way in a new environment. It’s very much a fish out of water/coming of age story, with a hero who makes plenty of mistakes but learns from them and ultimately succeeds. Very positive messages here. There was a bit of violence here and there, but nothing over the top.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – We loved this book! It is lovely to start with, lots of beautiful illustrations throughout. The story is a classic girl-on-mission-to-save-family type narrative, with a twist: Minli is going to ask the Man-in-the-Moon for help, and she takes a dragon along with her. The story of Minli is interwoven with folk stories told by her father. A really fun book! No concerns here.
The Master Puppeteer– This book, like Young-Fu, was a bit slower paced, but we still enjoyed it. This time, the setting is feudal Japan, and the main character is a boy learning the art of puppetry. Along the way there are many trials…especially towards the end when a surprising twist develops. No concerns here.
I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade is the read-aloud we just finished.  It is set in the time of Kublai Khan and the main character is a girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to save her horse from the Khan’s soldiers. Oyuna is really a fabulous heroine-brave, resourceful, imaginative…I will miss reading about her adventures! I had no major concerns with this one-there are a few deaths (including Oyuna’s mother)- but the overall theme is about overcoming adversity and seeing your dreams through.  There are a few scenes that might bother some sensitive children-such as the scene where Oyuna discovers her dead grandmother in a cave (and later returns to dig up the grave), but there is nothing terribly graphic about it. The ending, while a bit sad, is ultimately hopeful and a story of success against the odds. 
The Land I Lost -After pre-reading this one I am going to skip it. There was a warning note in the Instructor Guide about a certain chapter involving a violent monkey and a toddler.  After reading it myself, I decided not to share it with the kids. I originally planned to skip just the one chapter, but when I flipped through the book I encountered a story about a violent hog that killed a father while his daughter hid in the bushes, a few too many (and a bit too graphic) animal deaths,  plus some treatment of animals that made me squirm a bit. Also the ending, involving the boy’s water buffalo, did not look particularly uplifting! If I did not have a five year-old listening in, it might be okay- the reviews on it look positive. I think I just need something a bit lighter right now.  We will be skipping ahead to the next read-aloud: Daughter of the Mountains
As a side-note, we have been using Best-Loved Folktales of the World and All the Small Poems as readers instead of read-alouds. The kids enjoy both.
I’ll try to update this list as we move along!

A Review of Henry Huggins

James and I just finished reading Henry Huggins by Beverly Clearly (scheduled in Sonlight Core B). We loved this book! It’s pretty rare for us to read our SL books ahead of schedule, just because the program involves so much reading and we are usually behind! But for this book we frequently read a day or two ahead just because we wanted to finish the chapter and find out what happened. This book is about a young boy, Henry, who finds an abandoned dog. After much negotiation with his mother and some adventures on the bus he arrives home and launches into a new life with his new pal, whom he names Ribsy because he’s so thin.

This book has a lot of laughs, for both kids and parents. Each chapter is a new adventure in Henry’s life. Henry gets two guppies and finds out that they are quite…prolific. He enters Ribsy in a dog show…with hilarious results. He loses his friend’s football in an unusual way… and comes up with an even more unusual way to buy him a new one.

Henry is funny, Henry is smart, Henry is imaginative….and while he isn’t perfect, he does tend to do the right thing most of the time. There are a few other books in the Henry Huggins series: Henry and Ribsy, Henry and the Clubhouse, and Henry and Beezus, to name a few. I believe we will be checking a few of these out of the library for some fun summer reading! And of course, reading anything by Beverly Clearly tends to take me right back to childhood when I read all the Ramona books several times over.It’s very cool to read them again as an adult.

Review of The Witch of Blackbird Pond

We just finished reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond (scheduled in SL Core D). This is one of those books that I had heard about here and there for years, with the result that I had certain ideas in my head about what it must be about. I had imagined, first of all, that it was about a scary witch living near- wait for it- a pond.  I had always imagined this book was kind of a spooky mystery/supernatural story- you know fog and dark stormy nights and ghosts and all that. So I was pretty surprised when I saw it on our SL reading list. Turns out this book is nothing like I expected. The “witch” isn’t a witch at all, just a lonely old woman who is a bit eccentric and misunderstood. She does live near a pond though!

The main character of the book is Kit Tyler, who leaves her home in Barbados to live with her aunt and uncle in colonial Connecticut. This is very much a fish out of water story.  Kit has to try to fit in with many ways and customs she isn’t used to. She has never had to do the hard work her aunt and cousins are accustomed to; she is used to being waited on and wearing fine dresses. As she tries to adjust to her new home she learns lessons of humility, friendship, and the value of hard work.  She also learns a great deal about herself, including what she is capable of and what she wants from her life. Lots of great lessons here.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is great for bringing this period in history to life. There were so many things mentioned in it that we had read about in our history books: the mysterious disappareance of the Connecticut Charter, the witchcraft hysteria, the conflicts between the King and the colonists, and lots and lots of details of daily life in Puritan New England. The girls in the story worked hard- cooking, gardening, carding wool, making clothes and candles, and so much more. And unlike many books where this work is “prettied up”, here you could really feel their struggles and know how exhausted they must have been!

I read this book with an 11 y.o. girl and 9 y.o. boy.  I think it was best suited to my daughter. The pace was a bit slow in places, especially for a boy that prefers adventure- but I will say he understood it fine and it wasn’t over his head.  I think this is one of those books you remember long after reading it. I look forward to reading it again with my younger two!

Be sure to visit Read-Aloud Thursday for more great reading ideas!

Read-Aloud Thursday: Gooney Bird Greene

James (7) and I just finished reading Gooney Bird Greene, one of the read-alouds in Sonlight’s Core B. I was a bit hesitant to start this book with him because, well I’m almost ashamed to say it but, I judged the book by it’s cover. Ssshhh. But really, from looking at the cover I thought….oh dear, a girly book. And James is just not into stories about sweet little girls in tutus. He likes adventure, and humor, and a good story. Well, I am happy to say that I was totally off-base about the cover, because this book was full of funny little adventures and it was a really good story. We both loved it.

Gooney Bird Greene is a a story about a girl who is a more than a little different- and new in school. She quickly makes her way into the hearts of everyone in the class with her seemingly wild stories about her life. But her stories have a unique twist-while they start out sounding far-fetched, they are absolutely true. For example, one day she tells the class she went for a ride in a flying carpet. The students, of course, are awed, but the teacher wants to make sure Gooney Bird knows the difference between made-up stories and real stories. ” I only tell absolutely true stories,” is Gooney Bird’s response.

And so she does. It turns out that the flying carpet was a rolled up carpet she had crawled inside of in the back of a moving van. When the van hit a bump, the carpet flew out the window-with Gooney Bird tucked safely inside. There are many more “wild” stories throughout the book,  but I would hate to give away any more:). The book is also filled with sneaky educational stuff-like the children’s’ discussions of what makes a good story.

My son and I very much looked forward to reading Gooney’s stories everyday, and we were a little sad to reach the last one. But, as she herself pointed out, there are many invisible stories everywhere- and they are only made visible when we decide to tell them.

You can be sure we’ll be looking for other Gooney Bird Greene books at the library.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to stop by Hope Is the Word for more read-aloud suggestions.