America’s White Table

A Book Worth Reading: America's White Table

 I love it when I find new-to-me books on Homeschool Share—especially when they have an entire unit study to go along with them!  This Veterans Day you should really look into America’s White Table to share with your children about honoring those who have given their lives for our freedoms.

Margot Theis Raven tells the story of the MIA/POW Remembrance or Missing Man Table.  Started by a group of fighter pilots during the Vietnam War, the Remembrance Table is set in honor of those service members who are missing in action or prisoners of war.  Each item on the table has a certain meaning, such as salt for the tears of those waiting for a loved one to return or a white candle for peace.

Along with the tradition of the table, Raven tells the story of the three girls who are setting the table as they learn about their Uncle John’s time as a prisoner of war during Vietnam.  The story is not based on any one specific person, a decision the author made to “allow [the story] to represent every branch of the military, and be a universal sign of brotherhood for all MIAs and POWs.”

The girls in story that are learning about the tradition of the Remembrance Table are elementary school-aged, but because this is not a practice known to most people, I think it would still be an appropriate book for older kids, too, and obviously older children are going to understand the significance of the sacrifice more deeply than younger kids.  This is still a good book to read to your younger ones, too, though, as it is a good way to discuss some pretty big concepts.

America’s White Table would be a wonderful addition to your studies about Veterans Day or war, whether you are looking for a full unit study or just a read aloud to share.  It is one of those great books that teaches facts and touches hearts.

This One Book.

Want to use Homeschool Share, but you don’t know where to start?

If you have preschool, kindergarten, or 1st grade students, you can simply get going with The 20th-Century Children’s Book Treasury: Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud**Some of the books are best suited for preschool

We have free unit studies and lapbooks for eighteen of the stories found in this one book! Each unit study provides 1-2 weeks of learning, depending on how many of the lessons you want to incorporate into your plans.

The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury + Homeschool Share

So, when you buy The 20th-Century Children’s Book Treasury: Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud, you potentially have enough material to last one semester or even an entire year! The book is a fantastic deal at just  $22.60, and the unit studies & lapbooks are FREE!

Here is an index so you can easily find the titles on site.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.**

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown**

The Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keats**

Freight Train by Donald Crews — See our Trains Lapbook Study which includes this book

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Curious George by H.A. Rey

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann**

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Petunia by Roger Duvoisin

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss

The Story of Little Babaji by Helen Bannerman

The Man Who Made Time Travel

Picture books are one of my favorite ways to teach history because they allow you to add in interesting details that might otherwise be missed. Kathryn Lasky’s The Man Who Made Time Travel is a wonderful picture book that brings the past to life and uses an example of a specific problem to teach readers about larger topics.

the man who made time travelWe’ve all heard about how Christopher Columbus happened upon North America without realizing exactly where he was, but with the following age of exploration, I always thought that sailors had fairly good grasp on where they were going. The opening scene of Lasky’s book proves otherwise, though. Until the 1700s, sailors did not have an accurate way to measure a ship’s latitude, so while they could find their longitude, many ships crashed and sank because they couldn’t tell exactly where they were. The problem was so great that in 1714, the British Parliament pass the Longitude Act, which promised 20,000 pounds sterling (around $12 million in today’s money) to anyone who could find a “practicable and useful” way to measure a ship’s longitude.

As you can imagine, such a prize attracted swarms of people who were sure they had a solution. Ideas ranged from plausible, like the widely respected Lunar Distance Method, to preposterous, like the man who suggested using the barks of a wounded dog on a ship to accurately tell the time on land. These theories and several others are detailed in the book and will probably make you laugh and shake your head.

John Harrison was a 21 year old carpenter when the prize was announced. He had a good ear for music and knew some about math, but he had no formal education. He was a very motivated learner, though, and read and experimented to learn things on his own. When he realized that the bells he tuned for churches had much in common with clocks, he decided to build a clock, which many people thought was silly. He was successful, though, and began making extremely accurate clocks for others, improving his designs with each model. Harrison decided to work on the longitude problem and in 1735, he brought his first sea clock, H1, to the Board of Longitude, who would judge the entries. H1 had a very successful trial, but Harrison felt he could still make improvements. Over the next several decades, Harrison made more models and eventually felt he had made the best timepiece possible. On June 21, 1773, Parliament finally awarded Harrison the prize.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for several reasons. First, the information was completely new to me. Though I knew there were improvements being made in navigation, I didn’t know any details about them, and The Man Who Made Time Travel presented the problem and the solution simply enough for me to understand. Second, this is simply a good book. The story is well-told and the illustrations are enjoyable. The thing I loved most about the book, though, was Harrison himself. He was self-motivated and didn’t let his lack of formal education hold him back, even when others thought he was being foolish. When he taught himself to make clocks, he wasn’t satisfied with any old creation but instead continually looked for ways to improve what he’d made. This one regular man made something that changed navigation–and thus exploration and trade and life itself–and impacted the world.   As Kathryn Lasky says in the Author’s Note, “What puts me in awe of this man is his persistence, his total dedication to his work. He found in it a nobility that needed no prizes. To me that is the sign of true genius.”

The Man Who Made Time Travel is a great story to enjoy on its own, or it would be a great go-along for math or history, too. If you like this book and are looking for some other great historical go-alongs, Kathryn Lasky has several other books that you may want to check out!

15 Favorite Fall Books

15 Fall Favorites
Fall is here and the cooler weather means its the perfect time to snuggle up with some favorite books!  Here are a few of the fall books my kids and I have enjoyed over the years!

autumnWe’ve loved all of Steven Schnur’s season acrostic books.  Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic features many of our favorite autumn things along with beautiful, vivid illustrations.  You can read these short poems all together in one sitting or share one each day.

apple farmer annieI’ve shared about Apple Farmer Annie before, but it’s such a favorite in our house that I had to include it again!  Don’t forget to check out the Apples Connections page on Homeschool Share!

i know and old ladyThere are quite a few of these books out now, but one of my daughter’s favorites was There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves.  Your little ones will love to guess what will happen at the end!

nuts to youFall is the busy season for squirrels, so you’ve got to have some squirrel books on your fall reading list!  Nuts to You! is a great book for little ones.  The rhyming text is simple and easy to read and Lois Ehlert’s collage illustrations are always fun to see!

earl the squirrelEarl the Squirrel was my son’s favorite squirrel book when he was little.  We even made him a little red scarf like Earl’s!  There is so much fun to be had with this book, and you can even check out our Squirrel Unit Study & Lapbook!

miss suzyMy favorite squirrel story is Miss Suzy.  I love her cozy little house and always look forward to pulling this book out each fall!

pumpkinsOf course you need to have some books about pumpkins, too!  Jacqueline Farmer’s Pumpkins is a book that has nice, simple illustrations and lots of good information about fall’s most popular fruit!

from seed to pumpkinI love the Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science books and this one is no exception!  From Seed to Pumpkin walks readers through the growing process of a pumpkin.  The text is simple and the illustrations are nice and cheery.

pumpkin circlePumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden also follows the steps in a pumpkin’s life cycle, but it also does a good job of bringing the story back to the seed and beginning a new pumpkin at the end.  I really like the photographs in the book, too!

red leaf yellow leafFall is also the time to enjoy all the gorgeous leaves!  Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf has beautiful illustrations that really capture fall’s brilliant palette!  There are also instructions in the back for a fun craft to make with your kids.

leaf manIn case you can’t tell by now, let me tell you that I love Lois Ehlert’s books!  In Leaf Man, she takes ordinary leaves and turns them into all kinds of different creatures.  Your kids are sure to be inspired to make some of their own!  We also have a unit on leaves at Homeschool Share you may want to try!

leaves leaves leavesLeaves! Leaves! Leaves! is a book that combines fun illustrations with a good amount of information.  As Buddy and Mama go for a walk, he learns all about trees and leaves and how they change through the seasons.

why do leaves change colorWhy Do Leaves Change Color? is another Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science book that gives a good explanation of why we see all of those wonderful colors each fall!

fletcher and the falling leavesI’ve loved Fletcher and the Falling Leaves since my son was tiny!  Fletcher races to save the leaves as the fall from the trees.  At the end of the book, there’s a beautiful surprise!

in novemberIn November is the perfect book for the transition from fall to winter.  Cynthia Rylant’s beautiful words as accompanied by rich, warm illustrations that make you want to snuggle up and read some more!

Happy reading and happy fall!


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane


Kate DiCamillo begins her story with a quote from Stanley Kunitz’s poem “The Testing Tree” which says, in part, “The heart breaks and breaks / and lives by breaking.” The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane follows Edward, a china rabbit, as he learns to love and comes truly alive as he passes in and out of the lives of others.

In the beginning of the story, Edward lives in the Tulane house with a little girl named Abilene.  Abilene loves Edward dearly, setting him in the window each day as she leaves for school and telling him she will come for him when her day is done.  Edward is always dressed in fine clothes and while he thinks highly of himself, he does not care much for anyone else.  He doesn’t feel his life is missing anything, but one day Abilene’s grandmother, Pellegrina, tells the tragic story of a beautiful princess who doesn’t love anyone other than herself.  After the story’s gruesome end, Pellegrina tells Edward, “You disappoint me.”  Edward doesn’t understand why she says this, but it bothers him–though not enough to truly change him.

Edward’s life changes drastically, though, when he is accidentally thrown overboard into the ocean on a family trip.  After spending time at the bottom of the sea, he eventually finds himself caught in a fish net.  The fisherman finds him and takes him home, where he is renamed and eventually cherished almost as a child by the fisherman and his wife.  Edward begins to listen to the old couple and care for them and enjoys his life, even if they do call him Susanna and dress him like a girl.  Life changes again, though, when the couple’s daughter sneaks Edward out in the trash and he finds himself at the dump.  Edward eventually spends years traveling with a hobo and his dog before a brief stint as a scarecrow and then as a treasured gift for a dying girl.  With each new owner, Edward finds his heart stretching and growing and sadly, time and again, breaking as he is uprooted from the ones he loves.  He finally understands Pellegrina’s disappointment in him, but feels that maybe it is too late for him.

After an unfortunate incident with an angry diner owner, Edward finds himself in the care of a doll mender who repairs him and brings him back to life.  Edward spends years on the shelf in the doll mender’s shop, waiting for someone to come, and eventually, someone does come, bringing Edward full circle on his miraculous journey.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a chapter book, but the chapters are short and as a read aloud it only took us two days.  The storytelling is simple and straightforward, but at the same time, it touches you deeply, as most of Kate DiCamillo’s books do.  While most middle- to upper-elementary aged kids wouldn’t have trouble with being able to read the words, the story itself is pretty intense in some parts.  May of the people Edward lives with are troubled and broken and there is a little girl (with a drunken and neglectful father) who eventually dies.  If you have a sensitive young reader I would definitely preview this one first.  In spite of some of the hard situations, though, this is an absolutely beautiful story, accompanied by gorgeous illustrations.

As you follow Edward on his journey, you find that you, too, have changed as you witness Edward’s transformation.  This is a journey well worth taking.

The Matchbox Diary

Sometimes kids seem to think of history as a dry, boring subject, but by telling the personal story of one person, Paul Fleischman brings the past to life in The Matchbox Diary.  In this story, a girl is visiting her great-grandfather for the first time.  He shares his matchbox diary–started because he promised his grandmother he would not forget her or his old life in Italy–to tell her about his life’s story.  Held in a large cigar box, the many matchboxes each contain a tiny memento to help him remember important events in his life.

cook with books

The first boxes tell of the young boy’s life in Italy, where they were very poor.  One box contains an olive pit, which is what his mother would give him to suck on when he was hungry and they had no food.  There is also a picture of his father, who went to America to work and save money to bring his family over.  The father couldn’t read or write, so he had to hire someone to write his letters home for him, and when the letters arrived, the family had to find someone to read them for them.

The next set of boxes held items from the family’s ocean passage to America.  There is a hat pin found on board and a Saint Christopher’s medal like the ones many people threw into the sea when the waters became rough.  He also has a box full of nineteen sunflower seeds–one for each day he was on the ship.

When the family reached America they still had a difficult life.  The items he collected included a fish bone (for the job in a cannery) and newspaper scraps (to help him remember all the different places the family lived).  There’s a tooth lost when some boys who didn’t like immigrants threw rocks at the family, but there are happy memories, too, like the baseball ticket to the game he enjoyed with his father.

Ultimately, the young boy learned to read and write and got a job as a typesetter (and a box of the lead letters they used) and made a good life in America.  He owned a bookshop and then sold antiques, jobs he says he was good at from his years of looking for items to collect for his diary.  As he shares the little boxes with his great-granddaughter, she realizes that she would like to have her own matchbox diary, and the final picture shows her plane ride home, placing tiny pilot wings into a candy box and continuing the tradition.

Bagram Ibatoulline’s paintings for The Matchbox Diary are beautiful.  The pictures of the grandfather and the little girl are done in rich, warm colors that create a cozy feeling.  On many of the pages that show the boxes and their contents, one page shows the box and the item and the opposite page shows a black and white scene from the past that goes along with the grandfather’s story.  The pictures are so detailed that some of them almost look like photographs.

I liked that in telling one person’s story, Fleischman gives a good, broad picture of a specific time period.  This would be a great book to include as part of a unit on immigration or early 20th century history.  I also like the way he makes keeping a record–and really, telling a story–accessible to kids who can’t yet read or write.  Sometimes little ones get so hung up on all they things they can’t do yet that they don’t realize what they can do!

The Matchbox Diary is a wonderful book to share with your kids and may even be the start of some matchbox diaries at your house!