Mary Walker Wears the Pants

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A Book Worth Reading Mary Walker Wears the Pants
March is Women’s History Month, so this month’s A Book Worth Reading selection is Mary Walker Wears the Pants by Cheryl Harness.

Mary Walker was not like most women of her time. Raised by her parents to think for herself, Mary wore pants, campaigned for equal rights, and in 1855, she became one of the first female physicians. Mary was also against slavery, so when the Civil War broke out in 1861, she went to Washington to see how she could help. She wanted to join the army as a surgeon, but that wasn’t allowed, so Dr. Walker worked as an unpaid volunteer at the hospital doing every kind of job from changing bandages to raising money. Eventually, she decided to go to the battlefield anyway, and worked her hardest to give the wounded soldiers the best care she could. In 1863, her persistence paid off, and she was finally officially named an assistant surgeon for the US Army, a first for both the army and women! No matter what side the soldiers were fighting for, Mary was willing to help them, and it has been speculated that she may have been a spy. In 1864, Mary was held as a prisoner of war and eventually exchanged for a Confederate officer. After the war, Dr. Mary Walker was given the Medal of Honor for her service to her country during the war.

Mary Walker’s story is a great example for readers of all ages of someone who followed their convictions, even when it was difficult. Many people laughed at her and she was even arrested, but she fought for her beliefs. At great risk to herself, she was willing to tend to all of the soldiers on the battlefield, even when her help wasn’t appreciated or condoned by those in charge. Mary Walker Wears the Pants will help your kids realize that some of the things we consider completely normal–wearing pants or going to a female doctor, for instance–are things that others had to work hard to make happen. Cheryl Harness has made Dr. Walker’s story easy to enjoy and appreciate and follows it up with an Author’s Note that tells about the rest of her life. If you’re looking for a good story about a strong woman, check out Mary Walker Wears the Pants!

Tea Time with Roy Lichtenstein

Roy_LichtensteinRoy Lichtenstein by Eric Koch

Roy Lichtenstein was born October 27, 1923 in New York City.  As a child, he was interested in science and art, and after studying art in college, he became an art teacher.  At this time, Abstract Expressionism was very popular and much of his early work was in this style, but one day he made a large painting of a cartoon with Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.  Not only was this painting very different from his previous work, but he tried very hard to make it look like a printed image instead of a painting, even going so far as to paint Ben-Day dots on the picture.

Lichtenstein made more paintings based on comic books and advertisements and took his work to an art dealer.  Right around this same time, an artist named Andy Warhol also brought his work to the same dealer, who realized this was a big change for the art world!  Lichtenstein’s work was not well received at first because most people didn’t understand Pop Art and what he was trying to do.  As time passed, though, people began to see that these weren’t just copies of comic book panels; they were original creations that were interesting and fun to look at.  By the time he passed away in 1997, Roy Lichtenstein was a very successful artist.

Lichtenstein BooksThere are some great books on Roy Lichtenstein that are geared toward kids.  We enjoyed:

3We tried making comic balloons following the plans at Kids Artists.  The words took a fair amount of time, so we did this project over two sessions.

4We made Lichtenstein-inspired landscapes based on this activity from Rainy Day Mum.  Instead of dot markers, though, we used pencil erasers in ink to make nice, uniform dots.

5My favorite project was the Lichtenstein Style Portraits from Art Projects for Kids.  There is a template there to download, so you just draw the picture and color in the dots.  It is time consuming–you can see I never got mine completed!–but it was fun to do.

6This is the one my five year old did!

If you’re looking for more project ideas, try this low prep activity at Art History Kids.  All you have to do is print the page and go!

7I always like to take my kids to see some of the artist’s work in person if I can, so when we studied Roy Lichtenstein we took a trip to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.  If you are ever in the area, this museum is full of amazing artists.  We love it!

And if you’re not near any museums with Lichtenstein’s work, don’t worry!  My son came back from the restroom at Red Robin one day and informed me that there was a Lichtenstein in the back hallway and sure enough, there was!  I’ve made a point to look at every location we’ve visited and I’ve always found at least one, so take a lunch field trip and see if you can find one!

Lady Liberty: A Biography

A Book Worth Reading: Lady Liberty by Doreen Rappaport (book review from the Homeschool Share Blog)

Over one hundred years ago, a group of French men joined together and discussed a 100th birthday gift to America. The two countries had a history of friendship, even to the point of French soldiers joining in the fight for American independence. After a decade, the discussion led to concrete plans for the Statue of Liberty, and the story of how she came to be is told through the eyes of many of the different people involved in the process in Lady Liberty: A Biography.

Doreen Rappaport begins by sharing the story of her grandfather, a Latvian immigrant more than a century ago, who saw the Statue of Liberty as he first came to his new home. She then tells the story of how the statue came to be, from the first thoughts of a gift from France to America to the design and the construction and all the way to the unveiling of the completed statue in 1886. There are well-known people in the stories, like Gustave Eiffel and Emma Lazarus, as well as lesser known individuals who had a hand in bringing the dream of Lady Liberty to life. To complete the collection of perspectives, the author finished by including quotes from different immigrants about their first thoughts on seeing the Statue of Liberty. Also included in the back of the book are different dates and statistics related to the statue that your fact collectors will love!

Of course we’ve all seen pictures of the Statue of Liberty, but illustrator Matt Tavares manages to help us see this well known monument with fresh eyes. The statue is shown in various stages of construction and completion. I especially like the picture looking down into the statue as workers climb the scaffolding and hang from ropes to do their jobs. Tavares also shows many of the individuals in their everyday lives. With the last vignette there is a fold out picture of the completed statue that is beautiful and helps younger readers gain more perspective on the size.

We all know the facts about the Statue of Liberty, but Lady Liberty: A Biography brings those facts to life for readers!

Note: You can find a free printable lapbook for this title at Homeschool Share!

Lady Liberty: A Biography Lapbook Printables from Homeschool Share

Cook With Books: The Little Red Hen

Let your child bake some bread after reading the tasty tale of the Little Red Hen!

There are many versions of The Little Red Hen, but all of them tell the same basic story: The Hen does all the work to make the bread while everyone else plays, but when it comes time to eat the bread, everyone is suddenly willing to help!  We mixed up some super simple bread and then read several different versions while it baked!


We read Byron Barton’s The Little Red Hen many, many times when my kids were babies and toddlers!  The illustrations are very simple and engaging.


This version by Paul Galdone has more detailed traditional illustrations.


Margot Zemach’s The Little Red Hen: An Old Story is another one with more traditional illustrations.


Yes, The Little Red Hen is a story usually enjoyed by younger children, but even your older kids will enjoy this version with the photo collage illustrations.  What a fun spin on an old story!

When I was in elementary school we got to spend a morning making bread!  (This was way back in the olden days when we didn’t get to do things like that very often!)  It was so fun and one of my favorite memories!  Because no one wants to give 100 third graders each their own bowl and ingredients, we made our bread in a bag.  Everyone got to make their own and the mess was kept to a minimum.  I’ve only got my own two kids now, but I certainly appreciate low mess activities!


Aside from the easy clean up from this recipe, I also like that it just uses ingredients I always have on hand!


Start by putting the whole wheat flour, yeast, and salt in the gallon bag and give it all a little shake to mix it up.


Add the oil, honey, and water.


Mix it all together!  Once it’s all mixed, add more whole wheat flour and white flour and mix it up some more.  (The more air you squeeze from the bag, the easier it will be to mix.)


If you want, you can knead it with your hands–we save this part until it was almost all mixed together and we kept it in the bag to keep the mess down.


Let the dough rise to about twice the size.


Punch the dough down.


Take it from the bag and put it in a greased bread pan.

20160111_144910Let it rise to double again.


Bake it at 350 degrees for about half an hour…


…and you’ll have a tasty treat!

Here’s the full recipe:


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp. yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 3/4 – 1 cup whole wheat flour


  1. In a gallon ziplock bag, put 1 cup of whole wheat flour, yeast, and salt and shake to mix.
  2. Open the bag and add vegetable oil, honey, and water.  Squeeze out the air before closing the bag and then squeeze the bag to mix all the ingredients.
  3. Open the bag and add the white flour and the rest of the whole wheat flour.  (Start with 3/4 cup of the whole wheat flour and add a little more at a time if the dough is sticky.)
  4. Knead the bread in the closed bag until all ingredients are combined well.
  5. Put the dough (still in the closed bag) in a warm place and let it rise until doubled.
  6. Punch the dough down and remove it from the bag.  Put the dough in a greased bread pan and cover with a clean towel and let it rise to double again.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.


Worst of Friends

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A Book Worth Reading: The Worst of Friends (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams)

Americans today are all too familiar and fed up with political fighting, but we sometimes forget that even the founding fathers had disagreements over how the government should work. Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the True Story of an American Feud reveals the story of how two of our most famous presidents went from being friends to bitter enemies and back to friends again, showing us that disagreement over politics has always been a part of our country and reminding us that even though we may not agree, we can still be kind.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were complete opposites in many ways, from their personalities to their physical appearances, but they were good friends anyway. As the American colonists grew weary of King George’s unfair laws, the two worked together first to convince their fellow Americans that they should be free and independent and then to convince other countries to support the new nation. After so many years of working together toward a common goal, though, they found themselves with radically different ideas about how the new American government should be run. Instead of talking it out, the two friends fought it out. For more than twenty years–and both of their presidencies–the two men argued and neither one was willing to budge an inch, no matter how much their friends begged them.
Finally, as 1812 began, John Adams sent Thomas Jefferson a letter wishing him a happy new year. A month later, a letter arrived from Jefferson, and after that, the two friends corresponded frequently. The two men admitted their fault in the arguments to each other and resumed their friendship until the day they died–both on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after America declared its independence.

Suzanne Tripp Jurmain’s book is a great way to spark discussion with your children; it takes a philosophical disagreement between two historical figures and makes it relatable to kids in the 21st century. After all, almost everyone has had an argument with a friend before. What makes this situation different from all the political fighting we see today, though, is that these two men chose to set aside their differences for the sake of their friendship, which is a valuable lesson for kids to learn.  We do not have to agree on every point in order to extend kindness and grace to others, and our nation would be better off if we would all put this into practice.  During this election season, share Worst of Friends with your kids and they can learn about history and friendships!


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A Book Worth Reading: Masterminds by Gordon Korman

Serenity, New Mexico is an idyllic small town in the middle of the desert. There’s no crime, no poverty, no hunger; everyone has everything they need, and most of everything they want, too. One day, though, as Eli Friedman and his friend, Randy, decide to bike to the edge of town, Eli is overcome with pain and sickness and is suddenly rescued by a mysterious helicopter. Obviously this seems a little shocking and confusing, so Eli begins to investigate, and what he finds out changes everything he thinks about his life in Serenity. Because I don’t want to spoil the story for you, that’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot, but trust me, it’s a great read!

Gordon Korman is a fantastic storyteller! Masterminds is actually told through several different narrators, both boy and girl, so this is a book that will appeal to all readers. There’s plenty of action and suspense, so this is one of those books you won’t want to put down until you’ve read it all–I think it took me a little over one day, which is fast for me lately! Even reluctant readers are going to be drawn into this one. Also, what the kids discover about themselves and Serenity will likely lead to some good discussions with your kids.

I’d like to tell you more about Masterminds, but it’s really one of those books you need to read for yourself to get the whole story. Though the story is about pre-teens, the plot is interesting enough that younger readers will enjoy reading or listening to it, too. The best part? This is the first in a new series by Korman, so there will be more to look forward to once you finish this one!