Shapes in Math, Science, and Nature by Catherine Sheldrick Ross

Sometimes when I finish a book that I loved I can’t wait to sit down and gush about how great it is. Other times, I love it but I just know I won’t be able to give it proper credit: I struggle to explain just why it is so incredible.

Shapes in Math, Science, and Nature by Catherine Sheldrick Ross (April 2014, Kids Can Press) is a book I struggle to describe. The title suggests something a little bit academic.

But it is far from simply a geometry book about shapes. Rather, Shapes in Math, Science, and Nature is a fascinating activity book for kids with activities and experiments that can get even the math and science averse excited about shapes. It covers not only the subjects indicated on the cover but also history, culture and anthropology, ancient games, and even a little bit of literature. Continue Reading

Faces from the Past: Forgotten People of North America by James M. Deen

When I saw Faces from the Past on the Netgalley catelogy, I was excited, since my recent read about forensic anthropology was such a delightful read for me. My son and I have been studying early American history as well, so it fits in well with my current interests. Once again, I have to say how much I love homeschooling: as I teach my son kindergarten-level history, I am enjoying delving much deeper in to the history of my country.

Faces from the Past: Forgotten People of North America by James M. Deen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, November 2012) is another middle grade or young adult nonfiction look at American history by forensic analyzation of the bones that remain behind after hundreds of years. Mr Deen goes much farther back than Sally Walker did: he begins with remains found that are probably 15,000 years old, some of the oldest American bones found. I loved how his book provided examples of remains from all over the country, from a shipwrecked French sailor from La Salle’s expedition found off the coast of what is now Texas (1600s) to the “ordinary” women buried in Albany, New York.

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Written in Bone by Sally M. Walker

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker (Carolrhoda, 2009) is about what we can learn about a few early American settlers from their bones and burial. It is both a lesson in very early American history as well as a scientific exploration of forensic anthropology. Since I’m studying Jamestown this week with my son and since I’m a big fan of the television show Bones for it’s insight into forensic anthropology, I really enjoyed Written in Bone. Walker approaches her subject with obvious passion, clear language, and well done scientific explanations, all for a young adult audience. She teaches without belittling her audience, a difficult task to do when she’s writing for youth as young as 12 and as old as any adult.Continue Reading

1491 by Charles C. Mann

Because I’m beginning to teach a year of light American history for my son, I have decided to read some books on various subjects in American history myself. Where else to begin but with a review of life in the Americas before Christopher Columbus and his fellow explorers brought Europeans en masse in the late 1400s?

The book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann examines the evidences that we have in order to draw a picture of what the Americas were like before Columbus came. Relying on archeological evidences as well as historical records and geological studies, he draws a clear picture of how the native Americans may have lived. As he points out, much of his discussion is on life for the natives during the conquests, as the European reaction, descriptions, and memoirs are what we have as evidences of how life may have been before they appeared. I realize now better than ever that the native population of the Americas was huge, diverse, innovative, and talented. As a precursor to my own study of American history, 1491 was an essential introduction. Continue Reading