Kids Corner: What We Read First Quarter 2012

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…

Early Readers

The Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold have been a huge hit with my young reader! He loves that he is able to read every since word of the book himself, and the fact that the simple text was divided in to “chapters” gave him an added degree of pride, since that makes it seem like a “big kid” book. Besides the format of the book, Raisin loved the content: what could be better than a boy with a gross pet fly? I cringed every time he requested the books, but the best part was he could take charge of the reading time himself. Since I don’t read these to him, I didn’t have to think too hard about the gross-ness of the concept of a child nurturing a relationship with a fly, of all things.

The Honey Bunny and PJ Funnybunny books by Marilyn Sadler also make an impression on my young reader. Raisin enjoyed the stories: one about magic (P.J. Funnybunny’s Bag of Tricks) and others about buying things for friends (Money Money Honey Bunny), family relationships between brother and sister (P.J. Funnybunny Camps Out), and so forth. I liked the rhyming and rhythm of the stories as an adult assisting my young reader.

The early reader series of We Both Read books (published by Treasure Bay) have begun a new tradition in our parent-child reading. Those books are designed with parent-child reading in mind; parent reads one page, a harder one, and then child reads the next page. Since we discovered these books, when we read together, Raisin likes to take one page and assigns me the other. I love how, even in harder-to-read picture books, Raisin normally does not mind taking charge of a side of the book. This challenges him even when we’re not reading a “We Both Read” book. We’ve read a few of the fairy tale books in the We Both Read series: Jack and the Beanstalk, The Frog Prince, and so forth. I have not necessarily been impressed with the retellings of the fairy tales, but it’s the parent-child format of the books that bring us back for more.

Picture Books

I absolutely adore Marla Frazee’s artwork, and Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and illustrated by Marla Frazee (Harcout, 2001) had the double bonus of being about babies, a subject I love these days since newborn Strawberry has so recently joined our family. In Frazee’s wonderful style and Susan Meyers’ special text, we follow babies (in general) from newborn-hood to their first birthdays, from tiny sleeping innocence to mischievous crawling.  Each page begins with “Every day, everywhere babies ….” and then we learn something babies do. I like the rhyming of the text. It does nto feel overdone, but it makes for a wonderful read aloud.

Further, I loved how Frazee’s illustrations of babies enhanced Meyers descriptions. My favorite page is this one:

Every day, everywhere, babies are carried –
in backpacks, in front packs, in slings, and in strollers,
in car seats, and bike seats, and on Daddy’s shoulders.

That page’s illustration captures a street scene with so many families and babies that I find myself lingering over the page, looking at the interesting details of each baby and his or her carriers. Most pages are like this in the details. Everywhere Babies is perfect for the family with a new baby – or for any family that loves to reminisce on the process of growing up! (I keep trying to tell Strawberry that she needs to slow down already! These first five weeks have gone far too quickly!)

The Kiss that Missed by David Melling (Barron’s, 2001) is a clever story about a busy father (a king) that didn’t take the time to slow down: and the bedtime kiss he blew to his young son missed, going out into the wild wood where it met with amusing results for the knight he went after it to bring it back home. The Kiss that Missed is part fairy tale but it’s also a practical reminder that settling down and reading a story is an important part of child’s life. Mellings comic illustrations and the shimmery “kiss” to find on each page make this book a hit for young Raisin.

A Child’s Calendar by John Updike, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman was awarded a Caldecott Honor in the 1960s but it’s not just Hyman’s soft and detailed illustrations that are noteworthy. John Updike’s poems give live to the seasons, from the frozen stanzas of January and to the warm months of summer and the festivities of December.

Given the current changing season where I live, I liked April’s poems the best:

It’s spring! Farewell
To chills and colds!
The blushing, girlish
World unfolds.

Each flower, leaf,
And blade of turf –
Small love-notes sent
From air to earth.  …

Each month has four or five stanzas that perfectly match the tone of the month for America, highlighting not just the changing weather but the holidays that make each month memorable. A Child’s Calendar is a wonderful introduction to the months for young reader, but it also is a collection of well-written poems. I can envision encouraging students to word their own poem to the season or month after reading Updike’s rendition. This is something to return to in my homeschooling journey.

And then we come to a classic, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (published 1969. Awarded Caldecott Medal in 1970). I remember enjoying this story when I was a child, so I was pleased that Raisin also enjoyed it. Sylvester is a donkey with a pebble collection. One day finds a magic pebble that allows him to be granted any wish he desires. This seems like a good thing until Sylvester ends up stuck as a rock for months! Sylvester’s story is an amusing reminder to enjoy what we have and not wish away our lives. Raisin thought this was a very silly story, and enjoyed returning to it to read of the passing seasons as Sylvester hopes to be freed from his accidental wish. Steig’s simple illustrations are still captivating after all these years.

School at Home

And then, even with the arrival of my little one, Raisin and I have enjoyed a few books together for our school time in the past months. (Some of these were enjoyed before Strawberry’s arrival.)

Geography: Antarctica

Raisin has been quite interested in maps and geography, so we began a project of studying the continents, starting with Antarctica. Learning about the continent with a four year old prompted me to learn more myself: a few months ago, I posted about a Sally Walker volume about the continent that I really enjoyed.

Raisin and I also enjoyed a few pictures books about the continent. I like North Pole, South Pole by Nancy Smiler Levinson (Holiday House, 2002), an early reader that compared the climates and animals of the two extremes of the globe. Here is Antarctica by Madeleine Dunphy (Web of Life 2008) was a story about the various animals in the food chain in the format of a “house that Jack built” rhythmic text.

We also read a few other early reader books about the continent that didn’t stand out to me – but Raisin loved looking at all the maps, and he enjoyed being able to read the books himself.

Science: The Human Body

I mentioned previously that Raisin is fascinated by the human body, probably because of my changing body during pregnancy. One book that made him laugh because of the title is You Can’t Smell a Flower with Your Ear by Joanna Cole (Penguin 2004). Joanna Cole, who also wrote the Magic School Bus science books, does a great job of capturing science for the youngest reader. This book is no exception, as she discusses the five senses and the body parts that let us hear, see, feel, smell, and taste. This book is a nice low-level early reader for the interested youngster.

Twenty Questions: Why Do Feet Smell? by Melvin and Gilda Berger (Scholastic, 2012) is a book that Raisin discovered at a Scholastic Book Fair and was very excited to read. (“we can read it during “school time!” he was excited to tell me.) As the title indicates, it contains twenty questions about the human body and answers to them.  From sneezing to smelly feet, the succinct answers were surprisingly informative and interesting. Each page has bright photographs of children, and “do you know?” fact boxes as well.

Much more advanced are two other references that we enjoyed, even though I didn’t read them in full to my son. Discoverology’s Human Body by Steve Parker (Barron’s, 2008) is a brief (32-page) pop-up interactive book simply packed with detailed facts. My son loved the popups: a skull, a skeleton, the muscle system, skin hair that grows and so forth. Although he didn’t hav patience to listen to all the facts and the writing and explanations were too advanced for him, the abundance of information on each page allowed me to find the answers to the questions he had for me about the various parts of the body. I learned from this book each time we sat down with it.

Also full of information is The Way We Work by David MacAuly (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), a 300-page volume full of humorous yet accurate explanations about the workings of the human body, as well as detailed and memorable illustrations that bring clarity to the inner workings of the human body. A friend mentioned this book to me when I indicated my son was working on the human body in “school at home,” and then I promptly saw it on a sale table in Barnes and Noble! Although I admit that I have not read this book in full (and obviously Raisin has not either), I’m looking forward to having it as a resource as we repeated return to learning more about the body.

Science: The Earth

I discovered a fantastic series by Lerner called Early Bird Earth Science. I checked out a number of them on a whim and Raisin was most interested in The Earth’s Crust by Conrad Storad (2007).  I loved how this volume, which is geared for second to fourth graders, brought the facts of the earth (from plates to earthquakes to volcanos) into focus in just 44 pages. The writing was too advanced for Raisin, and with four chapters, we had to split it up into a few days reading, but overall he enjoyed the book. I was quite impressed with the clarity I had after reading the book, and the series provides a glossary, with a word bank at the beginning as well, and many pictures and charts to supplement the text.

Raisin was very interested in the information, but he had a hard time retaining it from day to day. I also was quite burned out from “school time” because of Strawberry’s arrival, so we needed to do something different and fun for “school time.” Using the book as a reference, together we created a board game, with questions to answer in order to move forward and volcanoes and earthquakes to slow us down on our way. Raisin helped me decide which questions to create, he found the pictures in the book that he liked (and I found similar ones online to print for our game board) and we made the board game together. We made it an “open book” game so Raisin could look in the book to find the answers.

We played The Earth Game constantly in the first weeks of Strawberry’s life! We’ve since returned the book to the library, and yet Raisin still wants to play: now, of course, he no longer needs the book because he remembers what a volcano and earthquake are.

So I haven’t been blogging and I haven’t been reading many adult books, but I’m sure getting plenty of kids’ books time in these days!

What have you been reading with your children this month?


About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. My son and I enjoy the We Both Read Books as well. Thanks for all the great suggestions. I think I will try to find the Earth’s Crust at our library since I can think back on my son asking questions about earthquakes and volcanoes. He might enjoy that. Reading with kids is so much fun.

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