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.

Five Favorite Bedtime Books

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Now that Daylight Savings Time is here, have you noticed it takes a little longer each evening to get your kids in bed?  Bedtime seems to stretch later and later as the sun stays up longer and longer!  If it’s time to refresh your stack of bedtime stories, here are five favorites from our home.

Sometimes we forget about the classics, but don’t leave out Goodnight Moon!  Margaret Wise Brown’s book is wonderful for even the youngest children.  The simple text is repetitive and soothing and Clement Hurd’s illustrations will draw children in as they notice all of the details.  It won’t take long until your young child can even “read” some of it back to you!

Sandra Boynton’s The Going to Bed Book was a hit in our home when my son was about 18 months old and we read it so often I’m pretty sure I could recite it all with at least 98% accuracy even now that he’s almost nine.  The rhyming story of a boat full of animals getting ready for bed is so catchy that you can’t help but love it, and the illustrations are just plain cute.  We’ve enjoyed all of Sandra Boynton’s books, but this is our favorite.

We stumbled across The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds one day at the library and loved it so much we ordered our own copy right away.  This is the story of three little bunnies who go to bed quietly–until their mama and daddy go downstairs.  Then the party begins!  Each time the bunnies cook up a new kind of mischief their parents return to set them straight until eventually, the bunnies get their time to play.  Marisabina Russo’s story will have your kids laughing and then, like the bunnies, winding down for sleep.

In A Bedtime for Bear, Bear has to have everything just so before he can fall asleep, but Mouse, who has arrived for a sleepover, is not following Bear’s routine.  We laughed as Mouse experiments to see if Bear can hear his noises, and to Bear’s chagrin, he can hear everything.  As Bear is about to go to sleep, he hears a strange noise and in his fear, wakes Mouse.  Mouse helps Bear back to sleep, all the while pretending that Bear is the one helping him feel safe and secure.  Bonny Becker has written a funny and sweet story that even older kids can appreciate.

In Anything for You, Little Charlie would do anything to help Mama out, but his help often ends up making quite a mess of things.  At the end of a long day of Charlie’s help, Mama asks him to do just a few more things for her:  climb into bed, snuggle down, and sleep tight all night.  This is such a sweet gentle story from start to finish.  Even when Charlie is underfoot, Mama is kind and loving and patient.  The illustrations a soft and warm and you can feel yourself getting sleepier as Charlie goes through his bedtime routine.  I love this story because it reminds me to be more like Mama when my kids are being like Charlie!

I can’t guarantee that these books will make your children fall asleep faster, but they will make bedtime more enjoyable.  Happy reading!


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A Book Worth Reading ~ Journey by Aaron Becker

 Picture books are a wonderful teaching tool for children of all ages—and even for adults, too, sometimes.  After a certain age, though, many kids don’t read picture books much for entertainment unless it’s an old favorite brought out to enjoy again.  Aaron Becker’s Journey is a rare picture book that is entertaining and captivating for readers of all ages.

Journey is actually a wordless picture book, which some people might think would be best for younger children, but it requires a certain level of thinking skills to create the words to a story from just looking at the images.  Becker’s pen and ink and watercolor pictures are full of details that invite you to pore over them to see what you can discover.  My son (who is nine) and I enjoyed discussing the different influences we noticed in the architecture and, after reading the author’s blurb on the book jacket, seeing how his travels must have influenced his illustrations.  It is surprising how long you can “read” a book without words!

Journey is an adventure story, beginning with a bored young girl who draws a door to another world.  Once she is in this magical place, she can use her marker to create other objects, such as a boat to take her down a river, much like Harold does in his stories.  As she continues on her journey it’s fun to guess what she will do as each new situation arises; sometimes we were correct and other times we were surprised.  The story always held our attention, though.  The girl’s brave act of kindness ultimately leads her back home and on to the start of a new adventure—and the ending had us flipping back to the beginning of the book to notice details that had escaped our attention the first time!

Aaron Becker has created a story that draws you in, even without words.  He makes you a participant in the adventure and leaves you with the beginning of a new story to imagine.  If you’re looking for a book to enjoy with all of your children—even if there is a wide age range—this is it!

A Christmas Tree in the White House

If you asked your kids what they think it would be like to spend Christmas in the White House, they would probably envision parties, gifts, and huge, decorated Christmas trees. This may be how things are done now, but back in Theodore Roosevelt’s day, things were very different, as they will learn from A Christmas Tree in the White House.

Gary Hines tells the story of how Teddy Roosevelt decrees that because cutting down trees goes against his conservationist views, there will be no Christmas tree in the White House. Roosevelt’s six children are understandably upset that their traditions are being changed and the youngest two make a plan to have some kind of tree for Christmas at the White House. With the help of their Aunt Anna—and using skills their father taught them in a previous game–the boys sneak a tiny tree into the White House and are able to keep it hidden for a while. When their father discovers it, though, he takes them to visit his friend and chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. To Roosevelt’s surprise, though, Pinchot tells the boys that cutting down some small trees can actually be beneficial because it gives the other trees more room and sunlight, so he allows the boys to keep the tree.

At the end of the story Hines includes some biographical information about Theodore Roosevelt as well as his children to provide some context to the story. Without knowing that the entire family enjoyed rambunctious play and crazy antics, this may seem like a tale of rebellion being excused or rewarded, but when you read more about them, you realize that this was the way they interacted. Even though the children did sneak the tree in, I don’t think this is a book that’s going to encourage your children to rebel! Hines also reveals what we know is true about this story and what details have been changed or added.

This is not your typical Christmas book, but your children will enjoy it.  The children’s efforts to hide the tree are amusing and you wonder how they think they’re going to pull this all off–and how is the president going to react?  You may also learn a bit of science as the chief forester tells the Roosevelts about why it’s okay to cut down some trees.

Alexandra Wallner’s charming illustrations are a great accompaniment to the story. They are simple and colorful and draw you into the story without distracting from it. If you enjoy this book, you may want to look into the other books on historical figures that she has written and illustrated.

When you see all the photos and news stories about Christmas in our nation’s capital this year, take some time to pull out A Christmas Tree in the White House and learn about a time two little boys worked to bring a little tree home to the White House.

Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore!

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Sometimes I look for books for my kids to make them think. Sometimes I choose them to help them learn facts. And sometimes, I want a book that’s just plain fun, which is why our copy of David McPhail’s Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! is very well worn!

Do you love to read aloud to your little ones? Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! is one of the best read alouds around. It begins ominously as the narrator hears strange noises (cue your mysterious voice) and then to his surprise—get your shocked voice ready!—he discovers that his house has been overrun by pigs. Even stranger, these pigs are not the normal barnyard kind of pigs, they’re skateboarding, oatmeal-making, half-dressed,  royal pigs! The rhyming text makes the story flow easily and is so fun to share out loud with your kids.

The pigs have their fun until, in frustration over an exorbitant pizza bill, the narrator banishes them from his home. This isn’t the end, of course. The piggies plead to stay and the narrator relents, providing they clean up and help out. The story ends happily with everyone piled into bed, dreaming sweet porcine dreams.

Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! is a picture book that young children will enjoy, but even older children will find it funny. My nine year old will still stop and listen if I’m reading it to his little sister! The great language keeps this from being an ordinary picture book that loses its appeal as the reader ages. The details in the illustrations also make this a book that’s entertaining to look at as well as listen to or read.

Some days you just need a little silly, and Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! is the perfect choice!