My girls and I finished our second chapter book of the month on Monday during our post-lunch read-aloud time. I wanted to share briefly about this book here at Hope Is the Word because this is a great chapter book for preschoolers. Elmer and the Dragon is the sequel to My Father’s Dragon (read my review here). Written by Ruth Stiles Gannett and illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett (a stepdaughter and -mother team), Elmer and the Dragon picks up where My Father’s Dragon leaves off. Elmer Elevator and the baby dragon whom he rescued from Wild Island are making their way back to Elmer’s home when they are forced to detour to Feather Island. On Feather Island, they encounter the canary who first told Elmer about the dragon and Wild Island, and while they are there they help cure the King of the Canaries (King Can XI) who is “dying of curiosity.” This delightful book is full of gentle adventure that is perfect for preschoolers. My girls really got into this story, and Louise even named one of her stuffed animals “Sam XI” after King Can XI. What makes this story an especially good chapter book read-aloud is its brevity and the black-and-white illustrations. I was excited when I found this title at a children’s toy consignment sale. Now I just need to happen upon the third of the trilogy, The Dragons of Blueland.
I am learning so much about book blogging from Carrie at Reading to Know. Although I have been at this for a while now, it is only in the past month or so that I have gotten a new lease on reading for pleasure and to better myself. Now I have a goal and a mission, and now that I am a participant in an active book blogging community, I have a way to really hold myself accountable to that goal and mission.
Because of this new-found goal to read more, enjoy more, and share more, I have decided to institute my “More Books Mondays.” Truthfully, this is just a way for me to keep up with all the great books reviews that I read through the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, through various blogs I visit through the weekly meme Booking Through Thursday, through something I read on a blog from my ever-burgeoning blogroll, or from a comment some kind reader leaves here at Hope Is the Word.
Carol (a.k.a. Magistra Mater), after reading that Wendell Berry is my new favorite author (am I only allowed one?), wrote that she had enjoyed reading Wendell Berry’s new book to her grandson. It’s a children’s book, no less. If you’ve been reading here at Hope Is the Word for very long, you know if there’s one thing I like, it’s a good children’s book. Berry’s new book is entitled Whitefoot. Here is Amazon’s synopsis of the book:
Whitefoot is a mouse, a small creature with “elegant whiskers” and a “reddish brindly tan” coat. She lives at the edge of the woods, where she knows, without a doubt, that she exists at the center of the world. What she doesn’t know is that not far from her safe haven there is a river, and a world of such size and magnitude that she cannot even imagine it. One day, a burst of rain floods down on Whitefoot, lifting her in its currents and carrying her far from home. What happens next leads Whitefoot on a great adventure — one in which she must encounter new experiences and challenges to her survival. The discovery of the universe around her, and her ability to survive within it, is a lesson that’s sure to resonate with children and adults alike. Written by best-selling author, Wendell Berry, this beautiful volume is illustrated in fine detail with original drawings by acclaimed artist Davis Te Selle.
Doesn’t it sound lovely? I can’t wait to get my hands on it and share it with my girls!
The aforementioned Carrie at Reading to Know reviewed Starting with Stories on her blog (read her complete review here). Although my girls and I have been enjoying Before Five in a Row for the past year or so (we’ve been doing it somewhat sporadically), we will soon reach the end of its booklist. I am intrigued by Starting with Stories because it includes so many books (over 100). I have often thought that poor Louise will get the short end of the stick, as younger siblings are purported to always get, because we are doing so many educational activities that are more age-appropriate for Lulu. It will seem sort of anticlimactic (at least to me) to do them again for Louise when it’s her time. Perhaps Starting with Stories will be the “curriculum” we use for Louise’s learning time once Lulu is officially a kindergartener here at the Hope House school.
Lastly, I am referencing Carrie and her prolific reading and wonderful reviews once again on this, my first More Books Monday post. I knew I had read about a book that sounded like a great addition to my parenting and educating repertoire on her blog some time ago, so I had to do a little digging to find this one. It is Discover Your Children’s Gifts (read her synopsis and complete review here at 5 Minutes for Books).
In our journey to prepare our children for their futures, I am always looking for ways to capitalize on their strengths and God-given talents and abilities. It sounds like this book might just help me figure this out a little better. Besides, if Carrie says that reading this book affected every aspect of her life (and she does), it sounds like a book I can really get into. I love a book that makes me look at the world in a new way. All the better if it helps me become a better parent and a better servant of Christ!
Well, that’s it. I’ve now added three more titles to my every-growing TBR list, one for read-aloud and two to add to my education/parenting library. Come back next Monday for another More Books Monday!
Boy, I’m just full of new ideas lately, aren’t I? It’s because I don’t have anything else to do (cue maniacal laughter).
I’ve been thinking for a while that I would love to keep up with the good read alouds we do each week, but I’ve never gotten around to posting most of them. My girls and I visit the library weekly, and it never fails that each week we make a few serendipitous choices that are read and re-read until they are exchanged for another title the next week. I know that there are lots of other reading mommies (and daddies, too) who might like to share their own weekly read alouds, so I decided to create this fun little weekly blog carnival. I’ve never done anything like this, and I really have no idea if I have a readership (!) that will support it, but I decided to give it a go anyway.
Here’s how it will work:
On Thursdays, I will host Read Aloud Thursday. Link to your blog page where you have written about the book(s) that you have read aloud that week. The books can be picture books, nonfiction, chapter books, or whatever you read aloud to your children. While my children are preschool age, you may certainly include read alouds that you enjoy with your family, no matter the age of your children (or lack thereof, ‘though the focus here is on children’s literature).
Since we’re a scant two weeks away from Christmas, last week I tried to pick out as many random Christmas books as I could find. While this is not necessarily the preferred method for finding the highest of quality literature, it usually works well enough for us. I did hit up on a few great Christmas titles this week that I’d like to add here:
This is a gorgeous illustrated version of the classic Christmas carol “We Three Kings.” The book is illustrated by Gennady Spirin. The illustrations look like the ornate artwork that one might see in a beautiful cathedral. My girls were amused by the Magi’s choices of transportation: a majestic steed, an elaborately bedecked elephant, and a regal camel. “We Three Kings” has always been one of my favorite carols, but I would challenge anyone to read this book without singing the song!
Coming Through the Blizzard by Eileen Spinelli (illustrated by Jenny Tylden-Wright) is a fun story about a Christmas Eve church service that is almost ruined because of a blizzard. The question posed by the minister who waits at the church is “Who would come to the Christmas Eve service?” This is a story with lots of repetition, so it is perfect for toddler and preschoolers. Spinelli is a master at choosing just the right word to paint a picture for the reader. Witness this:
blown from a pipe in the organ
on a burst of song,
a wordless Hallelujah.
This story is page after page of such poetry. Beautiful!
The Donkey’s Christmas Song by Nancy Tafuri is the sweet, sweet story of the little donkey who, timid because of his loud bray, brings joy and warmth to the Baby Jesus. With only a few short sentences per page, simple illustrations, and lots of animal sounds, this is the perfect Christmas story for toddlers.
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson (illustrated by Jane Chapman) follows a delightfully predictable pattern for those familiar with the other Bear books. Written in rhyme, this is the story of Bear who uncharacteristically stays awake for Christmas Eve, but he is so busy with his preparations that he misses a very important visitor: Santa!
Of course, we didn’t only read Christmas stories this week. Here are a few other noteworthy read-alouds:
The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt (illustrated by Yaroslava) is, of course, another retelling of a Ukranian folk tale made famous in the world of children’s book lovers by Jan Brett. While I would certainly never want to detract from Jan Brett’s gorgeous version of this story, we enjoyed this more simple version. The illustrations in this story are warm and the tone of this version is very reminiscent, since the narrator is recounting a story told him by his grandfather.
Cook-a-Doodle-Doo! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (illustrated by Janet Stevens) is a “spinoff” of the classic Little Red Hen story. Big Brown Rooster, great-grandson of the famous Little Red Hen, makes a strawberry shortcake with some unlikely helpers: Pig, Iguana, and Turtle. With humorous illustrations and comedic suspense, this makes a great read-aloud for preschoolers or gradeschoolers. Older children might enjoy reading the sidebars which include information and illustrations about baking.
Counting Crocodiles by Judy Sierra (illustrated by Will Hillenbrand) is the entertaining story of a monkey who lives on an island in the middle of the Sillabobble Sea. The monkey, whose only source of food is a lemon tree, spies a banana tree on an island across the sea. The clever monkey tricks the crocodiles who live in the Sillabobble Sea into helping her get her bananas. This rhyming story is pure fun for the preschool set.
Basket Moon by Mary Lyn Ray (illustrated by Barbara Cooney) is the interesting story of a little boy who lives with his Ma and Pa in the backwoods of Columbia County, New York, in what is presumably the 1800s. His father makes baskets for a living, going into the town of Hudson to sell his wares only when there is a Basket Moon (i.e. full moon). The little boy longs for the day when his father will take him to town, too, but when that day comes, he learns that venturing into society brings with it some pain and disappointment. His parents and community help him cope with his disappointment by giving him the gift of a calling: to be basketmaker, too. I suppose you could say this is a bildungsroman, picture book style. According to the author’s note at the end of this book, this story is based on an actual community of basketmakers who lived in that same region of New York. This would be a great story to use as a part of a history or social studies lesson. I was surprised that my girls, ages four (“and a half,” Lulu would quickly add) and two, enjoyed this, but out of all the books we read, this one was the most requested. Maybe it’s their penchant for pioneer stories.
Join me, please, in sharing your read aloud picks for the week!
Growing up, I loved Little House on the Prairie series, both the children’s books and the television show. My girls have taken a liking to the stories, too. They have listened to several of the books on CD during van rides, at rest time, and at bedtime. Steady Eddie gave me the first season of Little House on the Prairie on dvd as a gift several years ago, and because our girls are a little on the sensitive side when it comes to watching movies (the fighting cat and dog in Cinderella, for example, quickly reduces them to tears), we often resort to an episode of Little House for our sporadic family movie nights. They have enjoyed the stories so much, in fact, that they have made them a large part of their imaginative play. Lulu is Mary (“She went blind from scarlet fever,” announced my four year old) and Louise is Laura. Last week, braids were in high fashion here at the Hope Is the Word house:
I get a lot of enjoyment out of listening to my girls’ playacting.
We have borrowed the audiobooks so often from the library that we have decided to add several of the titles to our own home collection. Santa will be bringing some of these to our house this Christmas:
May I suggest one of these titles for your own little Lauras, Marys, and Almanzos this Christmas? If you follow the Amazon links here and purchase through my blog, even more books will find their ways to the Hope Is the Word house, and hence, more reviews to the blog by the same name.
Title: Hannah Coulter
Author: Wendell Berry
Length: 190 pages
Synopsis: This is a simple story, really. Hannah Coulter, who “married the war twice [. . .] once in ignorance, once in knowledge” (167), is an old woman who reflects on her life and her place in the Membership of Port William, Kentucky. She grows up under the loving guidance of her grandmam. She marries into the Feltner family as a young woman. She is widowed and comes into her second life as the wife of Nathan Coulter. She and Nathan raise their children and care for their home. She lives long enough to see her life as “[her] story, [her] giving of thanks” (5). There is nothing shocking, scandalous, or even suspenseful in this story. There isn’t much action in this story. It is the story of a woman’s interior life. However, there is plenty of ruminate over, appreciate, and meditate upon. It is a beautiful story.
My Thoughts: What can I say other than that I think Wendell Berry is a genius? I first became acquainted with Port William and its Membership when I read Jayber Crow (read my review here). The style and tone of Hannah Coulter is very similar to that of Jayber Crow, but there are subtle differences that give Hannah a voice of her own. I could go on and on about how wonderfully I think Wendell Berry writes, but what I really want to do is share some of my favorite passages from this book.
On the death of her first husband:
The thought that Virgil was dead didn’t come upon us suddenly, like “news.” It just wore itself deeper and deeper into us day by day.
The difference between me and Mr. and Mrs. Feltner, as I had to see and feel even in my own grief, was that they were old and I was young. I was filled with life, with my life and Virgil’s life, with the life of our baby, and with lives that might, in time, come to me. But the Feltners had begun to be old. Life had quit coming to them, and was going away [. . .]
Love held us. Kindness held us. We were suffering what we were living by. (50-51)
On the homeplace that she and Nathan loved and worked together:
What you won’t see, but what I see always, is the pattern of our life here that made and kept it as you see it now, all the licks and steps and rounds of work, all the comings and goings, all the days and years. A lifetime’s knowledge shimmers on the face of the land and in the mind of a person who knows. The history of a place is the mind of an old man or an old woman who knows it, walking over it, and it is never fully handed on to anybody else, but has been mostly lost, generation after generation, going back and back to the first Indians. And now the history of Nathan’s and my life here is fading away. Whem I am gone, it too will be mostly gone. (82)
The big idea of education, from first to last, is the idea of a better place. Not a better place where you are, because you want it to be better and have been to school and learned to make it better, but a better place somewhere else. In order to move up, you have got to move on. I didn’t see this at first. And for a while after I knew it, I pretended I didn’t. I didn’t want it to be true.
But it was true. After they [her children] were all gone, I was mourning over them to Nathan. I said, “I just wanted them to have a better chance than I had.”
Nathan said, “Don’t complain about the chance you had,” in the same way exactly that he used to tell the boys, “Don’t cuss the weather.” Sometimes you can say dreadful things without knowing it. Nathan understood this better than I did [. . . ]
And so Nathan required me to think a thought that has stayed with me a long time and has traveled a long way. It passed through everything I know and changed it all. The chance you had is the life you’ve got. You can make complaints about what people, including you, make of their lives after they have got them, and about what people make of other people’s lives, even about yoru children being gone, but you mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks.” I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions. (112-13)
On living with hope:
Living without expectations is hard but, when you can do it, good. Living without hope is harder, and that is bad. You have got to have hope, and you mustn’t shirk it. Love, after all, “hopeth all things.” But maybe you must learn, and it is hard learning, not to hope out loud, especially for other people. You must not let your hope turn into expectations. (146)
Oh, goodness. I could go on and on. Wendell Berry has, to borrow his own terminology, “turned my mind inside out like a sock” (112). Get thee to the library and check him out!