Look! Look! Look!

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A Book Worth Reading: Look! Look! Look!

August is American Artist Appreciation Month, so I want to share a great art book I happened upon at our local library!  Nancy Elizabeth Wallace‘s Look! Look! Look! is the perfect book for guiding your children to explore art, especially if you’re unsure of how to begin.

Look! Look! Look! features three mice–Kiki, Alexander, and Kat–who live in the home of the Bigley family.  One day when the Bigleys are out, a postcard of an art print (you can see the portrait here) comes through the mail slot and the mice decide to borrow it for a bit.  First, the mice make viewing frames from paper and focus on different details in the picture, such as patterns and colors.  Next, they look at the different lines and shapes they see in the portrait.  The mice then explore the different elements from the painting and make some of their own original works before returning the postcard for the Bigleys to find.  The concept is pretty simple:  What do you see in this picture?  However, sometimes I find that a simple guide like this is helpful because it makes me focus on the most basic elements of a picture.  In addition to the story, there is also a glossary of the art terms used as well as a postcard activity.

My kids and I have enjoyed several of Nancy Elizabeth Wallace’s books over the years and I love her cut paper illustrations–you might recall that this is one of my favorite styles!  Wallace uses her animal characters (mice, in this story, but bears and rabbits in others) to draw the reader in, so that even though you’re reading nonfiction, it has more of a story-like feel to it.  There really is a good amount of information and discussion ideas, so even though this is a picture book it would be totally usable with older kids, too.  As I was getting this post together I found that she has a book called Look! Look! Look! at Sculpture, so I’ve put that on hold at our library and am looking forward to getting more ideas on how to share art with my kids!

If you’re looking for artists and artwork so you can apply the ideas from Look! Look! Look!, don’t forget to check out our Tea Time Artists posts here on the Homeschool Share Blog.  We’ve got lots of book and activity ideas for you so that teaching about art and artists can be fun and easy!

Three Times Lucky

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A Book Worth Reading Three Times Lucky

I’d like to tell you that when I get a chance to read something just for myself that I always choose something highly intellectual and deeply meaningful; in reality, though, I almost always choose a fun mystery.  My son enjoys mysteries, too, especially The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators series, but many of the mysteries written for kids tend to be more formulaic and short on real character development.  I was so excited to come across Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky recently.  It’s an interesting mystery that also has wonderfully developed characters, too, and both my ten year old son and five year old daughter were talking about the book and its characters long after we finished reading the story.

The main character of this Newbery Honor book is rising sixth grader Moses “Mo” LoBeau, a feisty girl who lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, where she was discovered as a newborn in the aftermath of a hurricane.  Mo lives with her guardians, Miss Lana and the Colonel, and spends her time either with her best friend, Dale, or serving the town’s eccentric citizens at the cafe.  One day, though, one of the locals, Mr. Jesse, is found murdered, and Mo and Dale set out to find the killer.  They encounter quite a few problems as they work their case, but eventually they are successful.  Along with the mystery of Mr. Jesse’s murder, Turnage also explores the mysteries of Mo’s “Upstream Mother”–her term for her birth mother–and the Colonel’s unknown past.

Our library has Three Times Lucky shelved in the teen section, though both of my younger children really enjoyed the story without any editing on my part.  (You may want to check out the Plugged In review for details on language, etc.)  Dale’s father is an abusive alcoholic, so that may cause some issues for some readers, along with Mo’s loss of her birth mother.  I think both of these potentially sticky issues were handled with a good mix of grace and justice, though, and for most upper elementary readers, the story should be fine.  The characters are so interesting that even after we finished the book my kids were talking about who they pictured in their minds for each character and how much they liked the story.  They were very excited when I told them there is a sequel, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, and I hope there will be even more stories to come with Mo and Dale and all of their neighbors!

Come See the Earth Turn

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A Book Worth Reading Come See the Earth Turn

Are you looking for a way to share some of the human stories behind scientific breakthroughs?  Come See the Earth Turn is a book that does just that!  Léon Foucault was born on September 18, 1819. He was very weak at birth and when he was young he was very slow in school and needed lots of assistance. As he grew older, he found that he had a special talent for building things. Suddenly his slowness was an advantage since he was able to be so precise! His mother wanted him to be a surgeon, but Léon left medical school to follow his dream of becoming a scientist. He enjoyed working with microscopes and cameras to study light and actually took the first photograph of the sun. He also managed to measure the speed of light more accurately than it had ever been measured before.

At this time in history, scientists believed that the earth spins on its axis, but they didn’t know how to prove this. One day, Léon was working in his workshop and bumped into his lathe, and when he saw how parts of the machine kept moving, he realized how he could prove that the earth spins on its axis. He worked and worked and finally was able to show his experiment to other scientists. After he set his pendulum in motion, it slowly began to move away from a line that had been marked on the floor. Everyone could see that the pendulum was swinging independently and the earth was rotating beneath it.

Lori Mortensen has told Foucault’s story well and also includes an author’s note, a glossary, and a bibliography that includes several websites that illustrate Foucault’s experiment. Raúl Allén’s illustrations are a combination of pencil and watercolor with some digital editing, and the result is a unique mix of historical and modern looks. Some of the pages have picture boxes within the picture, giving the book a sort of graphic novel feel. These pictures will especially appeal to older students who will also understand the scientific concepts more than younger ones might.

Come See the Earth Turn is a perfect example of a picture book that can be used with students of all ages. Of course younger children will enjoy the story, but this would be a great addition to an older child’s science studies, both for the biographical and the scientific information. I think it’s also an amazing example of how sometimes very complex problems can be solved with a simple start–a very good lesson for readers of any age!


George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

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George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

You’ve likely munched on many potato chips in your lifetime, but do you know how they came to be?  In George Crum and the Saratoga Chip, Gaylia Taylor tells the story of the potato chip and the man who invented them, George Crum.

When George Crum grew up in the 1830s, he faced some difficulties because he was part Native American and part African American.  He met these difficulties with determination and mischievousness, qualities that ultimately led to his most famous creation.  George loved the outdoors, and when he finished school he made his living hunting and fishing to supply local restaurants with fresh game and fish.  While he was hunting, he met another hunter from France who taught him how to cook fine dishes over a campfire.  George discovered that he loved to cook!  He enjoyed experimenting with spices and seasonings and making his dishes taste just right.

George loved cooking so much that he decided to become a chef.  It wasn’t easy for him to find a restaurant that would give him a chance, but he finally got a job at Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York.  Most customers loved his cooking, but he also had to deal with a lot of picky customers who would give George and the wait staff a hard time.  One day, a lady ordered French fries, which were a relatively new dish.  George made what he thought were the perfect French fries, but the lady sent them back, saying they were too thick.  George decided he would show her how thin he could make them and sliced them as thin as he could and then cooked them in oil.  He took them out to her, hoping to enjoy the customer’s reaction to these thin potatoes, but to his surprise, she loved them!  The potatoes became a sensation!

George eventually left Moon’s Lake House to open his own restaurant, Crum’s Place, where everyone was treated equally.  George’s story, written wonderfully by Taylor, shows that many obstacles can be overcome with enough hard work and the right attitude.  George didn’t enjoy school, so he found a way to make his living in the outdoors.  When he found his passion for cooking, he pursued it until he had the job he wanted and didn’t let any difficulties hold him back.  His story provides a terrific example of perseverance!  The illustrations are bright and colorful and have an almost cartoonish feel that will draw in reluctant readers and help them enjoy this story.

So grab a bowl of chips–or try making your own!–and gather your kids around to hear the story of one of America’s most popular snacks!


Substitute Groundhog


Maybe Groundhog Day isn’t up there with Christmas and Easter and the Fourth of July, but when February rolls around and it seems like winter will never end, I think celebrating any holiday is a great idea!  Pat Miller’s Substitute Groundhog is a terrific book to read on Groundhog Day or it could even be a great launch for some animal studies!

It’s the day before Groundhog Day, and Groundhog is sick!  He decides the best plan is to find a substitute, but not just any volunteer will do.  The substitute groundhog must meet certain requirements in order to get the job.  Animal after animal auditions, but none of them can do the job right.  Finally, Armadillo saves the day–and takes Groundhog on a vacation!  The bright, cheery illustrations add fun to the book as you look each applicant over and try to decide if they look like they could fill Groundhog’s shoes.  With some of the animals, it’s clear just by looking at them that they aren’t suited for the position!

Substitute Groundhog would make a good read aloud for the day, but if you want to take it even further, there are FREE lapbooks at Homeschool Share for almost all of the animals in the book:

And at the end of the book, Armadillo takes Groundhog off to Texas, so this would be a great lead in to a unit study with Armadillo Rodeo!

Happy Groundhog Day–and may your winter be short this year!

The Night Before New Year’s

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Are you looking for a good book to ring in the new year? The Night Before New Year’s by Natasha Wing is a great one to curl up with on December 31st!

Written in the familiar form of Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas”, the story follows a family’s preparations to celebrate the new year. They purchase decorations, have fun foods, play games, and best of all, they get to stay up late. If you haven’t planned anything yet for your New Year’s celebration you might even get a few ideas!

The rhymes make The Night Before New Year’s a good story for beginning readers and they also make it enjoyable to listen to the story being read aloud. Even your older children will smile at this one because they will remember the first time they tried to stay up until midnight and see in the new year in.

Amy Wummer’s illustrations are fun and bright and will make you chuckle with their details like the expressions of a child who gets to eat three whole cupcakes! As you read further into the story you may see some of the same sleepy looks on the faces of your own children, too!

If you do New Year’s bagsThe Night Before New Year’s would be a great choice for one of your bags–and it’s available for the Kindle, too, if you’re a last minute planner! Regardless of how much or little you plan to celebrate, though, this book would be a great addition to your holiday book basket.