The Very First Thanksgiving Day by Rhonda Gowler Greene

We have a lot of Thanksgiving books, and we’ve checked out a lot of Thanksgiving books from the library.  In fact, I rarely ever even look for new-to-us books because we have (and have read) so many.  (This is entirely not the case with Christmas books!  Ask Steady Eddie.  😉 )  I purchased The Very First Thanksgiving Day because it is a part of a preschool/kindergarten curriculum I bought last summer to use with the DLM this year.  (Full disclosure:  I’ve yet to use a full week’s worth of activities from the curriculum.  Lesson learned (again).)  Thinking I might as well get some good out of it, I grabbed the book off the shelf yesterday morning to read to the boys during our Circle Time.  Well!  What a pleasant surprise!  If you’re looking for a simple but appealing book to explain the first Thanksgiving to your preschooler or early elementary aged student, this is it!  Written in rhymes, three or four lines to a page, this book covers the well-known basics:  the food, the Indians, the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, the community, and the coming together.  The text is reminiscent of “The House That Jack Built”; full of repetition, it’s sure to captivate even the youngest listener.  Here’s a sample:

This is the ocean that never would end,

that sometimes was foe and sometimes was friend,

that carried the Mayflower ship in full sail.

Susan Graber’s illustrations are full-page, detailed, and expressive.  The DLM asked several questions about the story just based on the illustrations.  The youngest readers at the House of Hope give The Very First Thanksgiving Day a Highly Recommended, and we will be adding it to our Thanksgiving booklist posthaste.  (Aladdin, 2002)

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Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt is one of those books I count as a favorite from my childhood.  I re-read it alongside Lulu as a part of her history studies.  (I could only read about a chapter a day, so I held her to that, too, until the last little bit.  She was champing at the bit to finish, but I really wanted to keep up with her this time, so she had to keep my pace.  :-) )  This is such a wonderful, nuanced story–one that even a bonafide adult (as opposed to me, an adult who prefers to read children’s books) would enjoy.  It’s the story of the four years of the Civil War–April of 1861 until April of 1865, as told through the eyes of Jethro Creighton.  He’s nine at the beginning of the story and lives with his parents and a few of his siblings on their farm in southern Illinois.  Life is simple for him, a simple farm boy.  However, with the coming of the war comes complexity and hardship for him and his family. Brothers and cousins enlist, as does his beloved school teacher (who is also his sister’s young man).  The Creightons suffer a blow when the gentlest of their sons, Bill, joins the Confederate army, and the family is labeled Copperhead.  Life gets even harder when Matt Creighton, Jethro’s father, suffers a stroke, thereby leaving Jethro the functional man of the family.  These desperate life circumstances force Jethro to mature and grow, and we readers have a bird’s eye view of the inner workings of his growth.  He faces several dilemmas which test his mettle.  This is a coming of age story set against one of the most heart-rending settings possible.   It won a very deserved 1965 Newbery honor; the only honor that year, in fact.  (I haven’t read Shadow of a Bull, the novel that bested it for Newbery Medal, but I should!  I can’t imagine it being better than this one, a book that has definitely stood the test of time.)  I love this book.  This will make the cut for my Best of 2015 list.  Highly Recommended.  (Berkley, 1964)

Here’s a quote I particularly like, just to whet your appetite:

Jethro lay awake for a few minutes; snatches of conversation, flashes of things remembered from the day, raced through his mind.  There was a war somewhere outside, and it was bitter cold; there was sad-eyed President, and one should always call him Mr. Lincoln; there was Jenny, who was not too young to be in love, and Tom somewhere with Grant’s army, and Bill standing in a straight, gray line that stretched across the country until it was broken at Donelson.  Donelson was a sqaure on Shad’s map, and there was a long, wavy line that stood for a river.  And boys had thrown away their coats and blankets before they reached Donelson; but now the fort was taken, and supplies for the Confederates could no longer be brought in either by railroad or by river.  It was a fine thing that Tom had helped to do.  Well, he would read Shad’s books with Jenny, and he would try to undertstand the newspapers–Shad thought that he was bright enough.  The chicken had been good–and his mother’s white bread.  It had been a fine meal for two bachelors.  The candlelight was like pure gold, and his teacher’s shadow against the wall was like a picture.  (chapter 4)

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Bull Run by Paul Fleischman

Bull Run by Paul Fleischman is our latest completed history read-aloud.  I purchased it a few months back at a used bookstore I love in Chattanooga, and I started reading it aloud on a whim (which is both a strength and a weakness of mine, depending upon which book we’re discussing 😉 ).  In this case perhaps it was a weakness, not because this is an unworthy book, but because I didn’t do my homework to decide whether or not it would make a good read-aloud.  It turns out this book is a series of sixty short chapters which are written from the perspectives of sixteen different characters, from General Irvin McDowell (the only non-fictitious character) to a stagecoach driver to a black man enlisted in the federal army as a white man to a slave girl to a doctor.  All of their various experiences converge upon one place:  Manassas, Virginia, at the Battle of Bull Run.  We had a very difficult time remembering the identities of the many characters.  The girls made a list of the characters, identifying them as either northern or southern, but even that wasn’t enough to really remember anything about them.  The writing in this story is fabulous–truly.  It’s just not a good book to read aloud.  I could see this as a great book to use in a classroom–as a reader’s theater or something like that.  I wish I had just handed it off to Lulu to read on her own.  (I find it nearly impossibly to abandon a read-aloud once I start it, which is another weakness of mine.)  I’d say it’s just about right as an independent read for a sixth grader.  (Scholastic, 1993)

Side note:  Did you know Paul Fleischman is Sid Fleischman’s son, and they’re both Newbery award winning authors? I didn’t, either.  Wow.  Paul Fleischman is also the author of a favorite picture book of mine, The Animal Hedge.

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Whose Shoe? by Eve Bunting

Well, Eve Bunting has done it again!  Is there a more versatile or prolific picture book author?  I can’t think of many.  Whose Shoe? is a fun, fun, fun Dr. Seuss-esque rhyming picture book that will delight the preschool crowd. It’s the story of a little mouse who finds a shoe (in some “tall bamboo,” no less) and searches for its owner.  Mouse approaches Tiger, Spider, Myna Bird, Hippo, and Elephant with no success but lots of humor.  My favorite is Elephant:

“I’d never wear a shoe like that.

I like high heels, and that one’s flat.

These high heels make my ankles trim.

They make my legs looks really slim.

So, thank you, but I must decline–

my high-heeled shoes suit me just fine.”

In the end the mystery is solved and Mouse’s kindness is rewarded.  Sergio Ruzzio’s illustrations are colorful and expressive and have plenty of preschooler appeal.  We give this one, along with Bunting’s very similar Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?, a Highly Recommended.  (Clarion, 2015)

Eve Bunting books reviewed at Hope Is the Word:

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2nd Six Weeks Circle Time–2015-16

I’m posting this a bit late since we started our third six weeks circle time this week.  😉 Ah, well.  Since I do this for myself as much as anyone else, here it is:
1.  Continue reading through John
2.  Continue memorizing Philippians 2:1-18
3.  Latin memory review work for the week (from Latin for Children Primer A)
4.  New poetry
     Lulu–“I Never Saw a Moor” and “There Is No Frigate” by Emily Dickinson
     Louise–“The High Winds of Nuuanu” by Robert Lewis Stevenson
5.  The Gettysburg Address
6.  New hymn–“Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus”
7.  Review poem, passage, hymn, document
Since we’re at the end of the six weeks and into the next one, I can report on how much we did as opposed to how  much I wanted to do.  :-)
1.  We’ve progressed to about chapter 14 in John.  I’m trying to read this slowly and thoughtfully, so I’m not in a hurry.
2.  In Philippians 2, the girls have gotten down through verse 8, though verses 9-10 flow from that (and are verses the girls have learned in AWANA and Bible study), so we’re going to say we’ve learned through verse 10 at this point.
3.  We’re currently stalled at chapter 10 of Latin for Children Primer A.  I’m hoping to nail the first three declensions in the next week and then move on.
4.  Lulu learned her two Dickinson poems easily.  Louise’s poem is another thing entirely; it’s a difficult one to learn, but she’s determined.  “The High Winds of Nuuanu” is apparently quite an obscure poem (I found it in a PDF document) which she learned about by following a rabbit trail from a book she read about Queen Liliuakalani.  Stevenson spent his final days in Hawaii and wrote “The High Winds of Nuuanu” about an experience there.
5.  The girls have memorized the first two paragraphs (five sentences) in the Gettysburg Address.
6.  “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” was a bust because somehow the girls ended up never having a copy of the song to practice in my absence.
7.  We didn’t do the review many times this six weeks, if any.
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