Category Archives: Books

April Books

Picture Books

I read this book a few years ago to EJ but picked it up again to read to JD. Both boys got a kick out of the playful little kitten trying to take a sip of the bowl of milk in the sky and eventually ending up soaking wet in a pond.

I haven’t read any Maurice Sendak except for Where the Wild Things Are so I thought I’d pick this one up. It’s a cute story about a young boy having a rather strange dream about the Night Kitchen where rosy cheeked bakers are making the morning cake. JD was particularly tickled by the naked boy, weenie and all.

I really enjoy reading every Jane Yolan book we borrow. We recently finished reading The Magic Elements Quartet by Mallory Loehr. The final book Fire Dreams involves a visit by Goddess Athena and a retelling of the Greek myth Pegasus and Bellerophon. I thought it would be fun for EJ to hear something close to the original myth. The twist at the end was an added bonus as the boys gradually realized that the beggar telling the story was Bellerophon.

I didn’t realize it until just now, but we read a second Jane Yolen book this month. I really enjoy finding interesting folklore in picture book form. I have always been drawn to mythology and I hope that my kids enjoy them too. The Sea King is a tale introducing classic Russian characters; the witch Baba Yaga, and Vasilisa the Wise. This was a favorite of JD.

Tonight we read The Seven Silly Eaters.  I recognized the artwork immediately as the work of Marla Frazee, her drawings of people are quite distinctive. It’s a cute story about a mom with seven very picky eaters. The end is a bit of a surprise for the whole Peters family.

A few others that JD enjoyed are Let’s Count it out Jesse Bear, Thelonius Monster’s Sky-High Fly Pie. He particularly enjoyed Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken and asked for many times.

Literature/Chapter Books:

When EJ was young we were given several different sets of Pooh books, but they were mostly reworked Disney versions. It was interesting to listen to the boys as they discovered the stories they already knew told in a different way. It’s a classic and I’m so glad we finally read them as they were written by A.A. Milne for his son Christopher in 1926.

We read Gilgamesh The King as part of our Mesopotamia history study. The illustrations are beautiful but I have to say that this book didn’t really capture anyone’s imagination much.

I mentioned in my previous post that EJ seems to have had a breakthrough in reading and it’s thanks to the Secrets of Droon series. I’m sure if you are reading this blog you are familiar with the series but if not definitely give it a try. It’s in the same vein as Magic Tree House and at just about the same reading level.

My Reads:

I’ve been on a bit of a kid lit kick for quite some time. Probably because I seem to have a short attention span these days. But they are fun! After reading the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins, I decided to try The Underland Chronicles. I really enjoyed both series a lot. I think Underland is appropriate for a younger audience than Hunger Games although it has similar themes. I can see EJ enjoying Gregor and Boots in a year or two. I recently finished reading the Septimus Heap series through Queste, book 6. In some ways these remind me of Harry Potter, but the themes are a bit lighter in tone. The books are well written and the characters engaging. This is a great series for kids for whom Harry Potter might still be just a bit dark for.

I discovered a new author recently. The Name of the Wind is the debut fantasy by Patrick Rothfuss. I wasn’t familiar with it but saw a review of his new book Wise Man’s Fear, and it sounded very intriguing. The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear are the first two books of a trilogy. There are over 900 reviews on Amazon so I won’t go into detail about the story here, but I really devoured this book and I’m excited to read the second book soon.  The characters are engaging and complex, the story is well written. This is not a juvenile fantasy world of dragons, elves, and dwarfs (although I like those as well). If you enjoyed Harry Potter you might just give In The Name of the Wind a try.

Finally a poetry selection. We read one or two poems each week from Caroline Kennedy’s A Family of Poems: My favorite Poems for Children.  This month’s favorite was

The people Upstairs
                                   by Ogden Nash.

The people upstairs all practice ballet.
Their living room is a bowling alley.
Their bedroom is full of conducted tours.
Their radio is louder than yours.
They celebrate weekends all the week.
When they take a shower, your ceilings leak.
They try to get their parties to mix
By supplying their guests with Pogo sticks,
And when their orgy at last abates,
They go to the bathroom on roller skates.
I might love the people upstairs wondrous
If instead of above us, they just lived under us.

As an apartment dweller for many of my years I can certainly relate to this poem. The boys and I had fun imagining the goings on of some wacky upstairs neighbors.

So that’s a little, or maybe a big taste of what we’ve been reading lately.


Monthly Wrap-up: April

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. To be honest there isn’t much of any variety to talk about so I haven’t bothered. Maybe I need to think about doing this just once a month. I’ll probably ramble a bit today because there are a lot of different things on my mind. My apologies for that.

We are scheduled to close on our new house Monday, although a bit annoyed at the people involved right now. Our bank told us we were all set, but failed to tell us that we needed to pay for a year of insurance up front. Because they didn’t have proof that we paid the insurance, they didn’t send the paperwork to the lawyer as expected on Wednesday. The lawyer didn’t bother to call us or the bank to find out what the delay was. And this morning, Friday, an hour before my husband was to leave for the airport, we find out we have to scramble to get a payment to our insurance company. But it’s done and will probably result in only a few hours delay on the closing.

We’re very excited but a bit overwhelmed. Mr. Hamp is in Chicago this weekend taking the second part of his board exam. He’ll get home Sunday in time to do the final walkthrough. Close Monday, then we have to slap some paint colors on the walls and let the painters know what colors to buy. We will have a pool (yay!) but it hasn’t been opened yet and with all the rain we’ve had here the cover has slipped and most likely let in a lot of debris. Yuck! We don’t plan on moving everything over until May 23rd, but the house is just down the street so I’m sure I’ll be bringing things over sooner than that.

Needless to say we probably won’t be doing a lot of schooling over the next few weeks. I think that’s okay though because we’ve really covered an amazing amount of material this year and will continue working through the summer. Although, it will be hard with that lovely pool in our back yard!

I’ll start with JD (5yo). He is doing only about 10-15 minutes of work most days:

Reading: I started him on Click N Read Phonics last week. He’s doing really well and can now recognize the words: am, Sam, sat, cat, mat, Cam, and dad. After he started CNR, I realized he didn’t recognize all of the lower case letters. So we worked on that a bit with our All About Spelling letter tiles.

Writing: He’s also having some success with writing. We’ve been working through Handwriting without Tears pre-k book for a while now. He loves writing his letters and coloring with me. I’ll have him continue practicing through the summer and then move to the Kindergarten HWT book.

Math: We continue to work through Mathematical Reasoning book 2 from the Critical Thinking company. For the most part this is easy stuff for him, he has developed a good number sense and hopefully will be ready to move to Right Start Level A in the fall.

On to EJ. He and I do about 3 hours of work each day together and then he typically does another hour independently after lunch. This post is getting long so I’ll just cover a few things.

Spelling: After completing the our second level of All About Spelling in January we decided to take a break for a bit. Two weeks ago we started in on Level 3 and it would seem that the break didn’t cost us too much time. Spelling for EJ is so much easier since we started this program and it’s so easy to teach that I really love it.

History/Science: We are studying Ancient Egypt after two months with pre-history. History is the one subject that will be the most interrupted with our move because we are right in the middle of our several week Egyptian study. We’ve missed out on doing science for a couple of weeks but will get back to it eventually. It’s an area where I’m not too worried because we are ahead of what the public schools expect.

Reading: EJ has had a breakthrough in reading I think. He’s a good reader and has made lots of progress this year, but struggles to find reading material that engages him. Actually I think the library is just overwhelming to him. I haven’t pushed too hard, instead trying to help him search out books that were interesting to him. He spend a good many months reading nothing but comic books which I think was the gateway into more independent reading. He recently discovered the Secrets of Droon series and has read nine or ten of them multiple times over the last couple of weeks. At the moment, he can’t seem to get enough reading! This makes me so happy because I have such high hopes of having two readers in the family. I did some informal reading assessments and I think he’s reading at about a high fourth grade level. Knowing this will help me pick out books at, and just above his comfortable reading level.

So that’s us for the last few weeks. Stay tuned for a review of some of the books we read this month.

As always, thanks for reading.

Weekly Review 2/18/11

Week two and I’m already late with my wrap-up. Oops! We’re actually taking an easy couple of weeks this past week and the current week. Not really a break but definitely not a full schedule. Mr. Hamp has taken a lot of extra shifts over the last couple of weeks which has caused a bit of a stress situation here, I think I’m having flashbacks of residency.

EJ’s Week:
This week EJ did Right Start Math Level C lessons 8-14 which was mostly review covering evens/odds, graphs, beginning multiples. New material that was covered was Roman Numerals. EJ is on a comic book phase and has been reading quite a bit of Asterix anthologies. Asterix is a French comic strip that takes place in the year 50 BCE, during the Roman invasion of Gaul (modern day France), the strip revolves around the fictitious village of Armorica where the indomitable-Gauls were somehow able to hold off invasion by the Roman Empire. Naturally when there are numerals or dates in the strips they are Roman numerals which he hasn’t been able to read. So yea, he was excited to learn Roman Numerals, and I am always excited when math becomes relevant to other things he’s experiencing.

Because this was planned to be an easy week I decided to stop moving forward on our pre-history study and focus for just a bit longer on life prior to the rise of mammals. Our main item for the week was EJ’s first research report. I asked him to pick a dinosaur that we would research together and create a small report on our findings. He chose Hypsilophodon. I helped him use Google to search out his dinosaur and helped him choose the best sites from the search results. We looked at two different sites and found some discrepancies in descriptions of hypsilophodon. Of course with paleontology and ancient creatures there are discrepancies simply because we don’t have all of the information. Still, I told him that because the information didn’t match we needed to find a third source to confirm what the best answer was. My goal was to help him begin to think critically about source material and understand that we often need to look to multiple sources to get a complete and accurate picture of the thing we are learning about.

One of the most interesting facts according to EJ was that scientists first thought hypsilophodon lived in trees, you can see right in the middle an illustration of it on a tree branch. We laughed at how silly that looked and then talked about how scientists correct the record when they discover mistakes have been made. Other big mistakes from dino paleontology include Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus and more recently Triceratops/Torosaurus.


The Magic School Bus: In the Time of DinosaursNot surprisingly there is a Magic School bus picture book for just about every science topic you can imagine. These are big hits at our house and although they don’t go into quite as much detail as the chapter books, the kids and I seem to enjoy them more.

Click for Amazon“When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm” by Hannah Bonner is a comic book style overview of the Silurian and Devonian periods. It can be difficult to find interesting picture books for history prior to the age of dinosaurs so I really appreciate this look at two earlier periods. We’ll be looking for her follow up book “When Bugs Were Big, Plants Were Strange, and Tetrapods Stalked the Earth”

Click for Amazon


Just for fun we re-read Dinosaurs Before Dark and then moved on to the non-fiction companion book that goes along with it. I think we will continue to use the Magic Tree House series in our history study. _______________________

I don’t expect I’ll be doing a weekly review at the end of this week. But stay tuned for my post about a science lessons we did this week from the Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding.