Raisin and I finished our gentle trip around the world last week with some picture books about South America! I really enjoyed our brief study this time because I got to learn about the Amazon area, which fascinates me. Most of the picture we read were about rain forests.We also did another “Famous Places Race” that I made. (more…)
Little White Duck by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez (2012 by Lerner Publishing) is a children’s graphic novel with eight stories illustrating the lives of two small children in China during the 1970s. The stories are based on the author’s life, and focus on the two girl’s awakening understanding of the world around them: crying when Mao has died, even though at age 4 they don’t understand; searching for rats to kill for a school assignment; helping in the rice fields.
The title story refers to when one of the girls goes to visit her father’s village. She is shocked when all the children are dirty; they all touch the velvet white duck on her jacket, leaving it dirty black. It was an eye-opening trip for her to understand the people do not all live as she does.
The illustrations are in full color. I liked the drawing style. If I have any complaints, it is that I could not tell the two sisters (Da Qing and Xiao Qing) apart from each other in the stories. It also was so short, I found myself wanting more. In general, though, this would a nice introduction for young readers to be introduced to a different country. The book ends with a glossary of Mandarin Chinese terms used, as well as a timeline for Chinese history. It is a good introduction for helping children see the world as larger than their own experience, as Da Qing’s experience in her father’s village illustrates. Little White Duck may help children understand what a childhood in China was like a few decades ago.
Note: I read a digital copy of this book via netgalley.com for review consideration.
Raisin and I enjoyed learning about Australia for our school time this month. Since he was born there, I have a special place in my heart for the country, even though we really only saw a smidgen of the country: a few scenic places within five hours of where we lived in Melbourne.
We began our study of Australia by coloring a map with the geographic features (mountains and land with vegetation as opposed to the desert). Then I copied Small World at Home’s idea and we made a giant cookie in the shape of Australia. We added frosting and green sprinkles for the coastal/forested lands, chocolate chips for the mountains, and gel for the major cities. Then we cut it up into the various states and ate it! Raisin loved this project. He was excited to tell his friend, “Guess what? We ate Queensland this afternoon!” He thought it was so funny. Given his age, I’m not surprised that he’s forgotten the names of the states and cities. But weeks after the fact, he still can find the city he was born in (Melbourne) and he remembers about Uluru, which we talked about briefly.
One picture book we enjoyed helped us appreciate the size of the country and the various scenery. Are we There Yet? by Alison Lester was a child’s perspective of a month-long road trip around Australia. Raisin enjoyed learning about the various landmarks and began to understand the vast scope of the country since the road trip lasted so long for their family. He liked following their progress on the map. It was also fun to show him our family picture in the Victorian mountains (he was two months old) and a picture of him with me by The Twelve Apostles when he was about six months old. (We compared our picture to the illustration of the family by the Twelve Apostles that was in the book!).
We also spent about a week learning about the Great Barrier Reef. We watched a National Geographic video about it (it was geared towards adults, so I sat with him and we talked through the entire movie, and even then he barely made it through it.). We watched Finding Nemo, of course, and make a food chain chart using images from that movie to talk about which animals were predators to whom. We made another board game, The Finding Nemo Game, which rehashed some of the facts about reef creatures, but we didn’t play it nearly as much as we played our Earth Game so Raisin has forgotten a lot of what we discussed. In general, though, he remembers the Great Barrier Reef is a cool thing off the coast of Australia, and he knows what a “predator” is, so I consider that success for us!
Raisin did not show immense interest in learning much about Australia: neither the people (I loved the Dreamtime stories, but I could not get him interested), the history, nor the landmarks interested him. Our unit study ended up being mostly about the animals of Australia, which was fun too. Koala Lou by Mem Fox told of a koala who wanted to impress her mother, so she entered a gumtree climbing contest. I loved the illustrations, which featured all the various animals of the Australian outback. Wombat Stew by Marcia Vaughan was a silly tale of various animals getting the dingo to add icky things to his soup in order to trick him in to not eating the wombat. Although Raisin insisted he didn’t like this story, I caught him singing the Wombat Stew song after we read this book! Snap! by Marcia Vaughan told the story of some young Australian animals playing nearby the crocodile. They use their wisdom to avoid being eaten. And finally, the ridiculous My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch by Graeme Base is about a woman who adopts the animals of the bush. Told in poetry, the book gets more and more amusing as grandma’s pet animals fill the pages.
I also tried to give my son a very basic introduction to Aborigines and culture, but, as I said, it didn’t go over so well. He did like Big Rain Coming by Katrina Germein, which had Aborigine style artwork. I liked the subtle way the book introduced the young reader to the Aboriginal sensitivity to the land. Together, Raisin and I looked at the boomerangs we purchased when we lived in Australia and we talked about how the art of dots and lines created symbols. He didn’t want to try his own hand at art (he’s just not into crafts most of the time). We did read a very silly folktale called Whale’s Canoe which is supposedly based on a Dreamtime tradition. Joanna Troughton‘s retelling was perfect for Raisin’s age (4).
Whew! It was fun to focus on Australia for two months. It’s hard to believe that I was moving there five years ago. It feels like yesterday at the same time that it feels like a lifetime ago.
We also found a few other wonderful picture books in the past few weeks, but I’ll have to save those for another day!
What great picture books have you read about Australia?
First quarter 2012 has been spare on the blogging front, but it’s been busy and delightful on the home front from my perspective! Strawberry is now five weeks old, and Raisin and I are starting to settle in to a routine again of reading picture books. I’m reading Strawberry The Secret Garden aloud, and occasionally Raisin and I read a chapter in a Boxcar Children novel.
In general, the past few months have found Raisin steering himself toward the early reader books, partly because he love the sense of accomplishment when he can read to me and partly because I haven’t had as much time to read picture books to him! We have found some memorable picture books in the past weeks, but we haven’t been plowing through them at the rate (30+ a week) that we read them last year. We both are eagerly awaiting the time when Strawberry will show an interest in the board books Raisin tries to show her.
In addition, since January, we’ve done a fair amount of “school at home,” which Raisin regulary asks for because he simply loves to learn. I hope that his interest continues because I’ve enjoyed learning with him.
This post is huge because I don’t want to split it up: it’s much easier to keep it all together. So I apologize that it is so long, but I don’t know when the next time I’ll have to blog will be so here we go… (more…)
Frozen Secrets: Antarctica Revealed by Sally M. Walker (Carolrhoda Books, 2010) is an in-depth look at some of the historical details, scientific research, and geological facts about the coldest and most uninhabited continent on earth. Interspersed among the thorough text are bright photographs, illustrations, and maps to further inform about the continent. Although the book is billed as a text for juveniles, probably middle school and older, I found the content to be fascinating and sophisticated. Not ever student researching Antarctica is going to need this level of detail in their nonfiction accounts, but others will, like me, be fascinated by the abundance of facts and details.
Although I have not often in my life thought much about the continent of Antarctica, Ms Walker’s book put the history of the continent and the implications of it’s changing nature into context. Her five chapters focus on the the difficulty of visiting Antarctica (both in history and currently); the impact of snow and ice on the continent; the scientific research that reveals the little bits of life and history to be seen beneath the ice; the ancient history found in the rocks; and the impact of global warning on Antarctica and, subsequently, the rest of the globe.
Part of what I am enjoying about my son’s “school at home” afternoons (see this post) is the fact that Raisin is constantly finding things that he’s fascinated by and asking to learn about. Because he is interested in maps, we learned about the seven continents (essentially, the simple fact that there are seven continents). I asked which of them he wanted to learn about and Antarctica won!
We’ve read a few children’s nonfiction books about the subject and he’s enjoyed them. We read a little bit about penguins too. And then I found this book, and I found myself immensely interested in Antarctica. It is far too advanced for my four-year-old but I hope to convince him to pour over the pictures with me and maybe we will be able to learn a little bit more about the continent now that I have a better foundation.