Category Archives: Books

The Curious Kid’s Science Book by Asia Citro

Cover of The Curious Kid's Science Book by Asia Citro

 

 

 

 

The Curious Kid’s Science Book: 100+ Creative Hands-On Activities for Ages 4-8 by Asia Citro, M.Ed

When I was working as a librarian, I got a ton of science project questions. We had a lot of good resources, but some of the best books had ugly illustrations, and some of the pretty books had boring or overly-prescriptive projects. The Curious Kid’s Science Book is the book I always wanted to give out. It hits a sweet spot with photographs that will make you wonder, “Ooh, what are they doing there?”

The experiments are divided into eight chapters:

  • Plants and Seeds
  • Water and Ice
  • Mold, Bacteria, and Fungus
  • Engineering
  • Food and Candy
  • Baking Soda and Vinegar
  • Environmental Science
  • Living Things

Within each chapter, there are experiments, challenges, and “explore” projects.

Experiments are the most like what you’ll find in most science project books, with a question and list of materials. But, I love how much the book encourages the child to design the experiment, rather than just following a list of instructions. In the experiment to determine the best depth for growing seeds, it gives a list of things to consider: “How many seeds will you use? What kind? What depths are you going to use? How long will you run the experiment? How often will you measure growth?” and so on. (p. 35) So many science project books would tell you all those things to make sure you get the right answer. This book really encourages scientific thought.

Challenges give a goal and ask the child to figure out how to get there. One of these challenges is to keep ice from melting. There is no list of required materials, instead it asks the scientists to find materials around their house to try — “plastic wrap, towels, paper towels, tape, rubber bands, and anything else you can think of!” (p. 68)

Explore projects are the most open ended and include things like dissecting plants and flowers, fitting as many drops of water as you can on a penny, and making Epsom salt crystals.

Throughout the book, there are pictures of real kids with their experiments, inset boxes with real-life applications, and extension ideas. On the egg drop experiment, the “real life application” box asks the child to look at the what is protecting the contents of a mailed package. “Do you see any similarities between this and what you tried? Does it give you more ideas?” (p. 113) On the same egg drop experiment, an extension suggestion is to try using a smaller container for the egg. “Is it easier or harder to keep the shell from cracking?” (p. 113)

While the book gives the kids a lot of freedom to investigate, the book is also designed with parents in mind. Experiments that require no preparation ahead of time are clearly marked — and there are many! The materials are easily found and inexpensive. Most projects have a number of options for materials or ask the child to find things around the house to use.

My family has enjoyed several of the projects from this book and I’m looking forward to doing more! The subtitle of the book is “100+ Creative Hands-on Activities for ages 4-8,” though I’m sure older kids would have a great time, too! Have fun!

 

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: Purchased for my home library

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

Please follow and like us:

Fly Guy Presents…

cover of Fly Guy Presents: The White House

Fly Guy Presents… series written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold

(This review contains affiliate links.)

You may know Fly Guy as the star of a slapstick-y early reader series about a boy and his pet fly. My literal-minded oldest daughter has never connected with them, but we stumbled across the non-fiction Fly Guy Presents series and it has been a huge success! The same buddy pair provides a funny framework for all kinds of high-interest topics: dinosaurs, bats, space, castles, and so on. We borrowed Fly Guy Presents: Sharks and Fly Guy Presents: The White House from our local library.

Each book sets up the scene — in Sharks, Fly Guy and Buzz are visiting the aquarium — and then combines photographs, illustrations, and text to give a good overview of the subject. Fly Guy and Buzz provide punny commentary, fun tidbits, and keep the narrative moving. In the two we’ve read, the series is able to pack a lot of information into an easy-to-read format, and keep the interest high. My middle daughter’s favorite part of The White House is the page about ghosts in the White House. Apparently President Taft’s staff believed they saw the ghost of Abigail Adams hanging laundry!

We will definitely check out more in this fun series. I can’t wait to hear what Fly Guy thinks of snakes!

 

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: Borrowed from my public library.

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

Please follow and like us:

Sarah Morton’s Day and other books about pilgrim life

Cover of Sarah Morton's Day by Kate Waters

Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl by Kate Waters, photographs by Russ Kendall

(This review contains affiliate links.)

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, my husband and I took a “last vacation before baby” trip to Boston. While we were browsing things to do there, I came across a listing for Plimoth Plantation. I told my husband that we HAD to go there, because of a book I had when I was a kid.

The book was Sarah Morton’s Day by Kate Waters. In it, photographs show a day in the life of a girl living in Plimoth Colony in 1627. She tends chickens, helps her mother cook over an open fire, and mucks the garden. I was fascinated by all the layers of clothes she wore — three petticoats! — and her pilgrim vernacular. It gave me a glimpse into how hard life was without modern conveniences, far from any other villages. It also helped me think of the pilgrims as real people with real faces, not just a vague concept. Sarah Morton was just like me … except that I’ve never polished a brass kettle or drawn water from the spring. It brought Plimoth Colony to life so clearly that I still wanted to visit twenty years later!

 

A nine-year old girl and her mother cooking over an open fire

While Sarah Morton was a real girl, the photographs of her, obviously, are not. The pictures are of an actor at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts. There are three other books about real kids living in (or near) Plimoth Plantation that are also still in print and well worth a study.

Tapenum’s Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times

(part of the Plimoth Plantation museum is the Wampanoag village near the pilgrim settlement, a wonderful glimpse into the two different cultures in the same setting.)

Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy

On the Mayflower: Voyage of the Ship’s Apprentice and a Passenger Girl

All recommended for ages 5-10.

 

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: Purchased by my mom many years ago. 🙂

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

Please follow and like us:

Read! Read! Read!

cover of Read! Read! Read!

Read! Read! Read!

Poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke

 

 

 

 

 

(This review contains affiliate links.)

I’m always on the lookout for new books of poetry to read with my kids. One day we’ll be ready for Serious Poetry, but for now, short books with lively poems and colorful pictures are our mainstay. It lets us build an appreciation for poetry in a completely low-stress way. When I stumbled across Read! Read! Read! by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke at my library, I knew we had a winner.

Read! Read! Read! celebrates the joy of reading and all the ways that we read in a day. The first poem is about learning to read independently:

And one day

I took off.

I was swooping

alone

over words

once confusing

but now

all my own.

(from Pretending, p. 6)

 

And from there, it’s about reading everything in sight, from the cereal box to maps and beyond.

Today is my birthday.

I open Grandpa’s envelope

slowly

so I don’t rip his crazy doodles.

I don’t look for money.

I look for words.

(from Birthday Card, p. 26)

Some poems are about specific reading experiences, some are about the nature of being a reader.

You’ll wander through a forest.

You’ll open up a door

whispering under your breath –

I’ve been here once before.

Because you have.

You’ve read the words.

You’ve seen the pictures too.

Every single thing you read

becomes a part of you.

(from Forever, p. 24)

 

Read! Read! Read! is in picture book format, with a full-color illustration accompanying each poem. Look for favorite storybook characters in some of the pictures, plus clever additions like alphabet soup letters giving the reader even more to read! Recommended for ages 4-9.

 

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: My public library.

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

Please follow and like us:

October 20, 2017

Cover art of Pashima by Nidhi Chanani

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

(This review contains affiliate links.)

Priyanka has never been very interested in her Indian heritage. But, when life gets too hard – teasing at school, a cousin in the NICU, and feeling misunderstood by her mom – she turns to the faith she’s never really believed in. In desperation, she prays to the goddess Shakti, hoping for some help – any help. The next day, she finds a beautifully embroidered pashmina (shawl). When she puts it on, she dreams that she visits India, guided by an elephant and a peacock who show her the beauty and wonder of the country.

Her visions inspire her to find out more about her mother’s life before she came to the US, and she begs to visit India. Her mother absolutely refuses. But why? What secrets lie in her past, and why is she so adamant about not returning to her home country, even for a visit?

In her debut graphic novel, Nidhi Chanani weaves a story of a teenager reckoning with her identity, both as an Indian-American and in a universal coming-of-age.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it would serve as a great jumping-off place for learning more about India. Pri and her mom discuss saris and salwars, which led me to YouTube videos of how to tie a sari. There is a ton of food in the book, and it will leave you wanting to visit an Indian restaurant stat.  All in all, this book that I picked up for a quick read turned out to be full of heart and inspiration.

Recommended for ages 10-14.

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

Please follow and like us:

First Chapter Books to Read Aloud

(These reviews contain affiliate links)

When my oldest was about 3, I couldn’t wait to start reading chapter books with her. I was a librarian by training, a homeschooler at heart, and a reader since… always. I had dreams of us reading a chapter a night from our book and was eager to get started. But, it felt very hard to find books that were suitable for someone so young. So many “early chapter books” dealt with school or friendship troubles or other things that were far outside of her experiences. Through some digging, research, and talking with other librarians, we found some great books that have gone on to be family favorites. And, as an extra bonus, having them in our home library means that they’re ready for her when she’s reading chapter books on her own!

Here’s what we found; I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

cover art for Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same

 

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin

A series of four very, very beginning chapter books (my library keeps them with the early readers). Ling and Ting are twins, but they are not exactly the same. In bite-sized stories, they have sweet daily-life adventures: playing, cooking, and observing the seasons. This series was perfect for my realistic fiction-loving, literal-minded eldest.

 

 

 

 

cover art of Mercy Watson to the Rescue

Mercy Watson (series) by Kate DiCamillo

This funny six-book series about a pet pig and her owners is so much fun to read aloud! Mr. and Mrs. Watson are convinced that Mercy is a porcine wonder. In one book, she inadvertently alerts the fire department to an emergency at the Watsons’ and saves the day. However, she does it by smushing her nose against a neighbor’s window looking for sugar cookies. The startled neighbor calls the fire department, which arrives in time to save the Watsons. This series features a lot of funny secondary characters that have inspired their own spin-off series for slightly older readers, Tales from Deckawoo Drive. And, I can’t talk about this series without mentioning the fantastic art by Chris VanDusen. The characters’ exaggerated features and expressions dial up the humor and make it as much fun to “read” the pictures as the words.

 

 

Cover art for Dinosaurs Before Dark

Magic Tree House (series) by Mary Pope Osborne

This series is hardly a secret, but I was surprised how much my three- and four-year-olds have loved it! The audiobooks are our family go-to for car trips. Jack and Annie discover a tree house in the woods near their home that can take them through time and space. Early in the series, they visit the dinosaurs, ninjas, and the moon. I think the series really shines in the later installments, which are a bit longer, when they visit specific historic events and figures – the 1889 Paris World’s Fair, Louis Armstrong, and many (many) others.

 

 

 

cover art of Two Times the Fun

 

Two Times the Fun

Twins Jimmy and Janet have four old-fashioned adventures in this lesser-known Beverly Cleary book. These simple stories are heart-warming and wholesome, inspired by Cleary’s own twins.

 

 

 

 

Cover art for My Father's Dragon

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

This is one that showed up on nearly every list of “chapter books for preschoolers” I found, yet I never read it until my second daughter was ready for longer books. A boy sets off on an adventure to a mysterious, remote island. He must outsmart a series of animals before he reaches the mistreated baby dragon he is trying to rescue. It is fun adventure for kids who like a tiny bit of excitement. Originally published in 1948, it has an old-fashioned feel, from a time when there might have been undiscovered islands with unknown treasures.

 

 

 

cover art of Maybelle in the Soup

Maybelle in the Soup

Maybelle is a cockroach who lives under the refrigerator in a posh apartment. She and her friend Henry, a flea, get in over their heads as they seek a more exciting life (and diet) than crumbs dropped on the floor. Funny illustrations bring Maybelle with her big, floppy hairbow to life. In other installments, she spends a night in a hotel – with room service! – and visits an equally appetizing school cafeteria.

 

 

 

 

cover art of Mrs. Noodlekugel

 

Mrs. Noodlekugel

This quirky, slightly surreal series is laugh-out-loud funny and has added a few phrases to our family’s inside-joke vocabulary. Mrs. Noodlekugel is a funny old lady who lives with four blind cats in a Narnia-ish cottage hidden inside a big city. Nick and Maxine are put in her care and spend their time learning the ways of her unique visitors, including Drooly the Bear and a talking cat named Oldface. It’s reminiscent of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and I only wish there were more books in the series.

 

 

cover art of Diva and Flea

The Story of Diva and Flea

The longest of this batch, but arguably my family’s favorite. Diva is a little white dog who lives in an apartment building in Paris. Flea is a cat who doesn’t live anywhere in particular, but knows the city inside and out. They meet and each help push the other out of their comfort zone. Gorgeous illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi and first-rate writing by Mo Willems, this makes a delightful readaloud.

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: I was not asked to review these books. I purchased some for my home library and borrowed some from my public library.

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

Please follow and like us:

State Fair Books – State Fair of Texas Books

State Fair Books

It’s time again for the great State Fair of Texas! A friend of mine recently posted a book by a friend of hers on the State Fair. It got me thinking about trying to finds books on the fair. Turns out there’s quite a few about it! Here’s a list of the ones I found: (This post contains affiliate links)

  1. Maddy Lou and Mack

This book was just published at the beginning of the month! It’s the start of a cute series about Maddy Lou and Mack traveling around the great state of Texas!

2. Cotton Candy Catastrophe at the Texas State Fair

This tasty tale tells what happens to Jake when the cotton candy machine malfunctions.

3. The Spaniel Family Goes to the State Fair

This is the store of Joe, a cocker spaniel, who really wants to meet Big Tex!

4.Billy and Goat at the State Fair

Billy and his friend goat have different ways of exploring their state fair.

5. Bluebonnet at the State Fair of Texas

Just another one of Bluebonnet’s adventures around Texas!

6. Good night Dallas/Fort Worth

Not specifically about the fair, but this book features many landmarks in the DFW Metroplex.

 

All three books are cute ways of talking about our great state and the part of the state we all live in.

Please follow and like us:

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

(This review contains affiliate links.)

In this gorgeous picture book, Francesca Sanna brings to life the fear, heartbreak, and hope of a refugee’s journey. The unnamed protagonist describes the arrival of war and his/her family’s escape. Through breathtaking, magical illustrations, Sanna ratchets the tension. A guard at the border looms larger than life, unfamiliar landscapes fill the page, and the mother’s hair creates a cocoon to protect her family. The family represents so many families facing this impossible voyage.

Oversize guards in The Journey

The refugee crisis is a difficult subject for everyone, especially young children. This sensitive, beautiful book offers an opportunity to share it in an appropriate way. You don’t have to take my word for it – the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and the New York Public library all named The Journey one of their best books of the year.

 

Recommended for ages 4-9.

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: My public library.

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

 

Please follow and like us:

Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters

Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters

Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters by Rebecca Johnson

(This review contains affiliate links.)

 

Red next to black, friend to Jack,

Red next to yellow will kill a fellow.

A few weeks ago, my six year old and I were talking about coral snakes, which led to a discussion of mimicry, which led us to the library. As you do. We borrowed Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters, and it has dominated our bedtime reading ever since.

After a quick explanation about different kinds of animal fakery, it introduces nine trickster animals and their secrets. There is a spider that creates a giant puppet version of itself, a moth that chirps to confuse bats’ echolocation, a bird that sneaks her eggs into another species’ nests, and so on.

For each animal, there is a little story about how it uses trickery to get its way, then a two-page explanation of the science behind the trick. These science sections each introduce the scientists who figured out how these animals succeed. A lot of the experiments are fascinating — how do you change the way an animal smells? How do you record the sounds ants make deep in their tunnels? It is a nice way to get a glimpse of the many kinds of scientists and ways to study animals.

Recommended for non-fiction lovers from 5-10.

Disclosure: DFW Homeschool Resource will receive a small commission from any Amazon purchases made through the links in this post. This helps our site to run. Thanks!

Source: My public library.

Laura Jewell is a mom to three young readers in Richardson. She was a children’s librarian at a public library before deciding to stay home with her girls.

Please follow and like us:

Read for Today is National Literacy Day!

DFW Homeschool Resource BooksToday UNESCO celebrates 50 years of National Literacy Day. The theme for the year is “Reading the Past, Writing the Future.” UNESCO founded National Literacy day to “promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities, and societies.”

If you and your children want to make an impact on world literacy, look to your local library and community centers. There are adult literacy programs all over the metroplex. Your younger children may not be able to volunteer, but check and see if they’ll allow your high school students.

And celebrate the day by reading. Reading is not a right that everyone in the world has. Women are severely discriminated against in other countries when it comes to education.

Please follow and like us: