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Sep 5

It’s in the (Library) Bag

Posted on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

As I cautiously wield my way through the library with books piled to almost disaster, my friend (and favorite librarian) stops me. She speaks to me through the precariously stacked books so that all I hear is a mumble, and then my weight shifts quickly as I feel one more book added to the top of my pile.

She must have just recommended a book to me, I think to myself.

“Thanks!” I say through my wall of words and stories and continue on the path to the checkout counter.

The book turned out to be Press Here by Herve Tullet.  Press Here invites young and old to interact with what seems to be a few simple circles of color.  I don’t mean that it has flaps to lift or tags to pull.  It’s just you and the book.  As you press, tap, and blow on the colors, the circles multiply, get tossed about, and even get lost in the dark.

When my husband commented, “It should be an app!”, I hit him.  With an app you expect objects to move around and lights to flicker,  the imagination behind this gem is that the author/illustrator makes those things happen with the help of a reader and some paper, no electronics necessary.

When I find an unfamiliar author, I can’t help but look to see if he/she has more books waiting for my eager hands.  This author did not disappoint.

Today, our library trip produced The Book with a Hole.  One reading led to giggles which led to a flurry of ideas, which led to LEGO sculptures, and finally a few of our own “what can we make with a hole in the middle of the page?” drawings.

“What are you going to feed it?”


“Did she eat too much too?”


“Who’s the king of the castle?”

“What is he holding?”


“What does its face look like?”


“You dare put your hand through the hole?”


“Make his tongue.”

“Make the tallest building.”


“Make the statue.”


“You could put your own picture here.”


“Can you put on a play?”

Activities you could do with this book:

  • Only read a few pages a day, savoring each new activity.
  • Create you own black and white drawing with sharpie and cardstock centered around a hole (it doesn’t have to be a circle, it could be a different shape).
  • Create your own book with card stock and a whole in the middle (make the whole a square for a different challenge).
  • Bring the book to a group of friends and enjoy together!


“What sad song is she singing?”

Apr 20

Meeting Peter H. Reynolds, The Author of ISH

Posted on Friday, April 20, 2012


Glancing around it’s clear that nobody else has brought their kids.  Behind us is a trickling procession of what I assume to be parents and teachers filling the metal folding chairs.

Do they know who we’re about to meet? They seem to be acting so-normal.

Sure, they probably know his name if they’re here, but do they know enough to sit in the front row and make fan signs (okay, we didn’t make fan signs, hopefully our smiles and our sketchbooks convey our feelings).

We’ve been Peter H. Reynolds fans for a couple of years now.  Our two favorite books, Ish and The Dot, still impact us on each new read.  I’d been a recovering perfectionist for years before I began to think Ish-ly.  And I’ve seen his books opens doors to art for both kids and adults, alike.

An older woman next to us turns and starts a conversation.  She seems to know Peter H. Reynolds much better than us, so I ask her, “How do you know him?”

A Glimpse at His Heart

She tells her story:

My husband and I experienced a tragedy, we lost our son.

One day my husband asked me what I needed, what I wanted and I said I wanted to go to the Blue Bunny Bookstore (a store owned by Mr. Reynolds and his twin brother, a fact I certainly didn’t know before that moment).

Right away my husband bought plane tickets and made hotel arrangements and soon after we headed to Massachusetts.  I didn’t have any expectation to meet Peter, and my husband said ‘Buy anything you want’, so off I went.

While I was walking around my husband went to the front desk, ‘My wife would really like to meet Peter Reynolds.’  The person at the desk called Peter up and he offered to come and meet us at the coffee shop across the street.  And so we sat and had coffee with Peter Reynolds! I told him how his books had changed my life and about our tragedy, but he didn’t know any of that before he agreed to meet with a couple of strangers.  Since then we’ve all been kindred spirits.”

Then she showed me her “Dot” heart necklace, painted by Mr. Reynold’s wife, in the style of  his book, The Dot.

Well, I certainly knew a little bit more about the author’s heart from that story.  I already knew he loved art, and opening the doors for kids and adults to do art, but here was something-more.

She went on to talk to me about his books, more books than I ever knew he had written, particularly one that chronicled a moment in an autistic child’s life.  Someone from Mr. Reynolds group had just given her a free copy of it and she handed it to me to read.

Now I knew a lot more and Mr. Reynolds hadn’t even spoken yet.

His Heart Spoke, Our Hearts Listened

When he did speak, he may have used words and shown videos, but it was his heart that spread throughout the room.

It clearly didn’t escape his notice that my kids were in the room and he regularly engaged them with eye contact and words.

Do you think you’ll fly to the moon?” he asked my 11 year old.

And as he talked about kids changing the world he directed the end of that phrase to her.

Again and again he met the eyes of my two kiddos and they remained dedicated to him.

Through stories of his childhood, of how he named his characters, of his involvement with writing the book about autistic children, we knew him a little more.

Eventually we stood in line to get some artwork signed.

We gushed our appreciation when we finally reached him (he had earlier that day signed 300 books, a inscription and doodle in every book, so I knew he must be tired).

The Final Layer

It seems from listening to you tonight, that you’re a Christian?”

Yes, I am,” he smiled.  ”In fact, my brother and I consider all that we do to be our ministry. When I spoke at a school once they pulled me aside and said they were a little unsure what I might say after reading my book The North Star.  ’Good’, I said.

Well, that’s a wonderful layer that we didn’t know about, it great for my kids to see someone who is following the Lord and using their gifts fully as adults.”

Then he took a few moments to look at their artwork, and ask them what their names meant, and finally when they told him how much they loved his tiny watercolors that he had shown during the talk (about 1 by 2 inches), he paused, pulled them out, and gave the tiny set to them.

As we walked out into the dim, almost abandoned parking lot of the school you could hear my girls shouting.

He gave us his watercolors!”

Oh my gosh, they’re mixed, he really used these, he touched these!”

More squeals.

An author and artist to them is parallel to what pop bands were to me when I was 11.  I felt like a grown-up kid myself as we headed to the car.

I think Mr. Reynolds would have enjoyed my 9 year old’s comment as we drove home.

So, did you enjoy it Jellyfish?”

Enjoy it! I loved everything that he said.  It’s good for me to see an adult Christian artist who’s okay with not doing things perfect and making mistakes.  I’m someone who wants to do everything just right and very realisitic.  I think that’s really good for me to meet someone like him.”

She’s decided it’s okay to be perfect-ish.

Books to check out by Peter H. Reynolds


The Dot

I’m Here.

The North Star.

So Few of Me

He has more than what’s listed above and a new series coming out, included a chapter book he’s working on now.

Activities Related to His Books

Ish Art and Ish Notebooking Pages by Jimmie

The Dot activities

Animation Software

During his talk, he demonstrated his animation program that allows kids (and grown-up kids) to draw and the animate their drawings.  All of three of us were itching to get our hands on it.  You can check it out here.

The Blue Bunny Bookstore

Stop by his store The Blue Bunny the next time you get to Massachusetts.

Peter’s Tips for raising creative kids

Mar 2

From My Library Bag to Yours

Posted on Friday, March 2, 2012

My very good friend turned to me and said, “Let’s go to your favorite place.”

Did she know the location of my favorite place? Did I know? Two places came to mind.

“What’s my favorite place?” I asked.

“ThriftSmart,” she answered confidently.

It was one of the two.

“Yes, and the library.”

Both places mean surprises.

When I enter Thriftsmart I don’t know if I’ll find a skirt with just the right “me” in it, a favorite author rudely discarded but then lovingly delivered into my hands, or a pair of green rain boots for our three year old. I do know that only one out of fifty times have I walked out without at least one little surprise that put a smile on my face.

When I enter the library I also know there’s a 98% chance I’m walking out with a fresh, inspiring find. And I usually find it on the hold shelf.

I always get my holds first.

I walk to the hold shelf and try to calm my anxious hands as I look for the section with my name. And then I see them, those little white slips of paper addressed to me just like the tags on Christmas presents, and I fill my bag to overflowing.

And then I have to wait.

Maybe I get a peek at a cover, a teasing glance at a cover illustration, as I place them in the bag. And then it’s off to Story Time and keeping tabs on the four kids. Then I endure the drive home as I glance at my bulky bag, wondering what surprises await me. Will they be worth the wait? Will there by one gem to add to my favorites?

Sometimes it’s naptime or night time before I get to sit down with my heavy, promising bag.

But when it finally happens, it’s always worth the full day of anticipation.

I’ve decided I have to start sharing my library bag experience. Then you can put these books on hold at the library and I can feel like I played a little part in the joy of opening your library bag!

In my Library Bag this week (only the gems):

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Stuck is the most recent Oliver Jeffers book in our library bag.

We’ve had one by Jeffers in our bag each week because I can’t get enough of Jeffers’ work. Characterized by animals/people with pencil thin legs, along with a collage of media to create telling illustrations, his art work (and stories) deliver something unexpected.  Unexpected in a really good kind of way.  In Stuck, it’s the scribbled trees (that actually work), it’s his shadows that don’t follow any rules, it’s his monochromatic color schemes, and it’s even in his story which doesn’t take the usual dips and turns.

As an artist Jeffers illustrates concepts that aren’t easily put into the visual.  ”In Stuck the boy has a problem and he tries to throw everything at it” (paraphrase from an interview).  In Heart and the Bottle, he visually expresses what happens when we get hurt and then lock our hearts up somewhere safe, and how much it interrupts our abundant life.

On many levels, and then on the level of my 3 year old who shouts “Read Stuck by Olive Jeff, Daddy!”, I recommend his books for your library bag.  Here’s a  video of the author/illustrator, who seems like an unexpected book character himself.

Here are three of our other Oliver Jeffers favorites from the last few weeks:

The Great Paper Caper

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

The Heart and the Bottle


Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Illustrated by Jon Klassen

When I pulled Extra Yarn out of the bag and gave it a first read,  it was difficult to maintian self-control and not order up several copies from Amazon to pass out to friends.

In the story we  meet a girl who finds yarn that never seems to run out so she starts knitting for everyone and everything in the town, including the math teacher and the mailboxes.  Klassen’s ink and watercolor move this story beyond cute to enchanting and finally to the hope that a place like this might actually exist.

Maybe if the knitters of the world unite.  I did see yarn covered trees in Chicago last year.


Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists

Our 9 year old is particularly interested in comic book style art, which can be a difficult genre to find appropriate material for her to enjoy.  This collection offers a wide variety of cartoon art (as the title suggests, 50 different artists) but centers around well known stories.

Though just because these are “nursery rhymes” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re for your 3 year old, because nursery rhymes can actually be quite strange if you think about (three blind mice, see how they run, well you know the ending).  Some of these illustrations may not feel right for your family or at at least for your younger child, take a look for yourself.

Nursery Rhyme Comics would make a great jumping off point for encouraging your child to create his own comic, based on a nursery rhyme, fable, or fairy tale.

Hoping you find something unexpected (the good kind of unexpected) in your bag this week.


Feb 2

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Posted on Thursday, February 2, 2012

For anyone who’s experienced flight through words….this short animated (oscar-nominated) film is for you.  This was great viewing for our whole family-if your young one is nervous about the storm in the beginning, tell them to hold on, it’s all going to be okay. Be inspired by the film, pick up your favorite book and…fly.  And then make some art, and a movie, and…

(You can download this movie for FREE on Itunes. )

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Dec 14

Counting Down Advent With Books

Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011

For years I’ve been adding to our Christmas book library, and it all began with one book.  While pregnant with our first child, I worked as the special orders clerk for a bookstore.  As the only soon-to-be-mother employee, any free children’s books that arrived for the staff ended up on my desk.

Who knew that the first Christmas book, Mooseltoe, would be delighting our fourth child a decade later?

Our collection is a hodge podge of pure silliness, to beautifully illustrated, to heart inspiring.

A few years ago I began a tradition of wrapping one of our beloved books for each day of December first through the 25th.

Each day a child unwraps a book and we read it and count down one day closer to Christmas.

I’ve found it stays exciting if I’m always mixing in a few new treasures (old treasures, really, from the thrift store and used bookstore) with our old ones.

Here’s a list of our favorites (in no particular order of most loved):

Picture Books

Chapter Books and Collections

Note to Myself, Books to try next year:

  • Star Mother’s Youngest Child by Louise Moeri
  • The Animals Christmas by Anne Thaxter Eaton
  • Christmas Long Ago from A to Z by Bobbie Kalman
  • Christ in Christmas: A Family Advent Celebration by James C. Dobson, Charles R. Swindoll

    The longer chapter and story collection books have not been wrapped, we’ve been reading chapter by chapter through them each day while unwrapping a picture book to read as well.

    Whether you wrap them or check them out from the library, here’s wishing you many days of hot chocolate and good stories.

    Do you have any favorite Christmas books that I need to add to my library?

    Nov 7

    Resources for Teaching Poetry

    Posted on Monday, November 7, 2011

    Last year we really enjoyed our exploration of poetry.  We tried out several poetic forms, read and copied favorite poems, and our 9 year old even won the local NPT story and illustrators contest for her collection of original poems.  You can see a video of her art and poems here (she’s number 2 on the video list, “Jael”).

    Although we often keep a tradition of “poetry tea time” that is popular amongst homeschoolers, we’re looking forward to once again delving deeper for the next six weeks.

    One outward motivation is the River of Words Poetry and Art Contest which all of the kids would like to enter this year.

    Here are some of the resources that already have me feeling inspired and we haven’t even started yet:

    At the River of Words website you can download a poetry lesson guide for free.  The guide suggests using a compilation of art and poetry they’ve published called River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things.  It’s twenty-one dollars on the website but I found it used on Amazon for only a few dollars.


    Poetry Tag Time is a compilation of great poetry for children.  The collection begins with a poem by Jack Prelutsky and then he “tagged” the next poet and she submitted a poem that was related/inspired by Prelutsky’s poem and so on as each poet tagged the next.  Thirty poems in all are included and there are short explanations between poems as to how they’re related.  If this doesn’t make sense (it didn’t to me right away), just go ahead and take a look.

    The book is only published for use on Kindle and such, but I was able to download a free app to view it on my computer instead. I purchased this resource for a grand total of 2.99 on Amazon (no shipping of course since it’s digital). If you go to the Poetry Tag Time Blog, you will find suggested activities for each of the poems.  This resource is going to help our poetry time stay accessible to our six year old. The same women that compiled Poetry Tagtime, also compiled a similar resource for teens called Poetry P*Tag.


    A Kick in the Head, edited by Paul B. Janeczko, is an introduction to the main poetic forms, from haiku to cinquain and sonnet, to many other forms I’d never heard of before!  Each page contains a poem along with more information about the form in small print on the page and an illustration by Chris Raschka. Janeczko has many poetry books worth looking at, but I highly recommend his other two books in this series,  A Poke in the I and Foot in the Mouth.


    Wishes, lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry by Kenneth Koch has some interesting and simple ideas.  At the end of last year, we wrote “I wish” poems and they revealed the unique hearts of each of us.

    Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School by Georgia Heard is the best book I own on teaching poetry.  It takes us beyond “just copy the form” to teaching the kids about expressing their heart, experiences, and reactions to the world through verse.  Filled with exercises, poetry stations, editing suggestions, it was worth the full price that I paid on Amazon (I think there are used copies available now).


    The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan is a story based on the childhood of poet Pablo Neruda.  It’s a magical novel about words, dreaming, and following your passion.


    Poetry for Children, a blog by one of the creators of Poetry Tag Time, regularly posts new poetry books and novels written in verse.  Many of her posts on poetry books include suggested activities to go along with the book.

    Poetry at Play includes a Weekly Poet highlight, interviews, and articles on the world of poetry.

    Notebooking Fairy, Jimmie’s other blog, has several free poetry notebooking pages.  As a note, Jimmie’s collage is hosting 10 days of Language Arts, go check it out. In two more days, poetry will be the focus of her blog post.

    Practical Pages inspires me in many ways, but one area is how her family “plays” with Poetry.  Check her out-you’ll be hooked.

    Find a source for nature poetry on this post.

    Do you have any favorite poets you’ve studied in your home or other resources that have helped your poetry exploration?

    Sep 14

    On the Bright Side: A Few Good Reads

    Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    It’s one of those weeks when the best laid plans have been made, but there’s a cry or wail and a sour face at almost every turn.

    So here’s a whole post full of complaints….

    Wait a second, I already know this homeschool path is lined with little stones that trip me up and some big ole’ rocks that causes  a full-tilt, ungraceful stumble.  At the same time that I’m falling to my knees, I’m  finding plenty of treasures along the trail.

    So instead of a list of our challenges this week, here’s a list of the books that have brought us together.

    Johnny Tremain Esther Forbes

    We have about three weeks left in our journey through the Revolutionary War, led by TruthQuest’s American History for Young People (Year 1) as our guide.  To much anticipation, we began Johnny Tremain this week.  Right away his saucy, prideful character grabbed the kids attention and they all grinned nervously as the author foreshadowed that “pride cometh before the fall”.  I didn’t read this book as a child and what a gem!  When I first read it to myself last year I asked a friend, just like a child, “Is he a real person?” Unfortunately he’s not, but he’ll live in our imaginations for the rest of the week.

    The Little Maid Series by Alice Turner Curtis

    I stumbled upon the Little Maid of Mohawk Valley, a nice hard-bound, slightly-tattered edition and then realized from looking through our TruthQuest guide, this is an entire series based on actual events of young girls who played a role in history during the Colonial period.  I can’t speak to the entire series yet, but the one we read was full of spunky girl adventure and detailed, historical background to boot.  There is an edition of this series that includes a paper doll and dress attached to the cover flaps.  What a great gift for a girl.  We’ll be reading The Little Maid of Ticonderoga next.

    Wilderness Wife by Etta DeGering

    Have you ever thought of what it was like to be the wife of Daniel Boone, the great wilderness man of the late 1700′s?  She bore him ten children, spent large chunks of time raising thier family while he was off making new roads, and had several children killed or kidnapped by the Native Americans.  But still she told him to go, sensing his need to explore and be free.  My 8 year old is reading this for a report on Boone’s family and she can’t put it down once her school time is over.

    The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clark

    A treasure I found at the thriftstore, this is story inspired by the actual soldiers played with by the Bronte Family. As young children they wrote a history for their toy soldiers and published it.  This author took the soldiers and their history and brought them to live in an attic and be discovered by a English boy one hundred years later.  Only Max knows the secret, that these soldiers are actually alive.  Very adventurous, a good read aloud (or independent reading) for a boy especially.  This book has a similar spirit of The Indian and the Cupboard (different armor, similar idea that toys have a secret life), but this book was written first.  I also found a picture book, entitled The Brontes by Catherine Brighton, at the used book store, that highlights the childhood of the children, including the wooden soldiers.

    A Journey through the Bible by David C Cook

    I picked this up at a curriculum sale last spring.  It gives historical and geographical information that correlates to the main stories of the Bible, includes diagrams and photographs.  We started The Story Bible by Catherine Vos again, and this has been a good companion, a way to support the events of the Bible as real history, not just a bedtime story.

    Can I hear a hurrah for thrift stores and used book stores? Hurrah!

    Aug 16

    A Booklist: First Chapter Books to Experience Together

    Posted on Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Books have always been a portal.

    Open one and climb through to something bigger.  I’ve been finding those passageways since I was a kid.  I found the Narnia Books, Madeliene L’engle, Judy Blume, and-well, truthfully I didn’t find the best storytellers beyond a handful of gems. There was The Babysitter’s Club series, which encouraged my already young boy crazy brain. Then there were the Daniel Steele books that started in 6th grade.  I’ll let you fill in the places my young heart was traveling to in those books!  Thankfully, it was L’engle, Lewis, and later Bronte that I never discarded.

    When we entered the Land of Homeschool, lists of great books fell into my hands and our family began entering our own portals.

    There are a generation of moms at the moment that are just glad their kids are reading.  It doesn’t matter if the material is too mature, or simply poorly written and mass-produced for a quick money-making series.  ”No, I haven’t read those books, I’m just glad he’s reading.”

    But great writing gives our children the appetite for more of it.  It’s also the number one way I see my children’s spelling and grammar improve. I don’t claim that all of the books I’ve listed here are the best literature, some of just full of imagination and have inspired our family to laugh and dream.

    If it’s at all possible, read these books out loud.  They’ll become shared memories, like family vacations to remember from childhood.  A reluctant reader might be a very attentive listener, even if it’s just because he gets the full attention of his mama or dad.  We read at the table often, it seems someone is always putting a book next to me before I even get a bite of food.

    This list is to tempt the five to 7 year old (or any age that has yet to fall in love with books) into a world made bigger and more colorful through the doorway of a book.

    Introducing Chapter Books

    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (and the other books in the series, though maybe not all at age 4 or 5 when we start the first book)

    Little House on the Prairie Series

    Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

    *The Indian and Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

    Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Brink

    Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls ( the first chapter book our then five year old son finally begged for another chapter instead of groaning each time he saw our read aloud)

    Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Series

    My Father’s Dragon by Betty MacDonald

    The Adventures of Buster Bear (and all the many other animal stories by Thornton Burgess)

    Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (very wittily written, precludes the animated Disney Version)

    Homer Price by Robert McKloskey

    Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

    Jenny and the Cat Club Esther Averill

    B is For Betsy and other books by Carolyn Haywood

    Betsy and Tacy series by Maud Lovelace

    Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater

    The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary ( she has many others, her stories are endearing, though they were not always my favorite to read aloud)

    *Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

    The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright (and other books by Enright)

    The Cricket in Times Square by Garth Williams

    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum

    James Herriot’s Treasury for Children

    The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

    Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry (and other books by Henry)

    In Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson

    *Note: These particular books contain what our family calls “foolish speech”, so we adjust as we read out loud.

    Did I leave out some of your favorites? Please share them in the comments so I can keep my bookshelves always overflowing!

    Mar 3

    Book Review: Bud, Not Buddy

    Posted on Thursday, March 3, 2011


    A Book Review by Mookie, age 10

    bud-not-buddyBud Not Buddy, by Christopher P. Curtis, takes place in Flint, Michigan.  Bud, the main character, is an African American boy who is only ten years old but still has lots of adventures.  I thought the author did a wonderful job of writing this book.

    Bud’s mom has died and his father is gone but his mom left him one clue about his dad. The clue is a blue flyer with a famous music band on the front.  When Bud is sent to a foster home he is certain that to find his Dad he must escape, but it’s hard because his foster parents are really mean to him.  When he does escape he must go to the city of Grand Rapids, so he tries to jump on a train but it goes too fast and he misses it.   When he finds another way to Grand Rapids, he meets Herman E. Calloway, the famous band player from his blue flyer.  Bud thinks Herman is his dad so he’s really surprised when Herman turns out to be his grandfather.  Finally, Bud has a family.

    The way the author described the characters made them seem real.  Everybody says that Bud is skinny, but Bud always answers, “I’m not skinny, I’m just wiry.”  I felt like I knew Bud more because Bud had written his own book, and he quotes from it.

    “Rules and Things Number 327: When you make up your mind to do something, hurry up and do it, if you wait, you might talk yourself out of what you wanted in the first place.”

    I was excited about what would happen next because Bud went on so many adventures, like the time his foster parents locked him in the shed and he got attacked by hornets and had to break the window to get out. I don’t think the author did a good job describing the setting because when Bud is in the city, I had to imagine everything about it.  He doesn’t give any descriptions about the places or the landscape.  This book was inspiring to me because I’m as old as Bud is in the book, so I feel like I can survive all of the adventures that he did.  Bud, Not, Buddy is a book I would love to read again.

    Mookie wrote this book report with the help of this ebook.  It was her first attempt at a book report (or non-fiction writing in general), and she worked on it independently until the last stage of revision.  She loved this book and wanted to share her review!

    Mar 2

    Evan Moor Fairy Tale and Folktale Pockets: A Review

    Posted on Wednesday, March 2, 2011


    Why I Chose the Evan Moor Folktale and Fairytale Pockets, Grades 2 and 3

    With two middle elementary students in the house, I wanted to make sure that we didn’t forget to do some fun, younger activities for our kindergartener. He’s always tagging along with our school time, a little ahead of himself, and I wanted to dip back into the precious early years of learning. I also wanted to try matching him with his 8 year old sister for a project, and give our eldest a independent project.

    We really enjoyed the Evan Moor Native American Pockets last year, and I’ve had my eye on the Folktale and Fairy Tale Pockets for a while.  We started them just after the New Year, as something different to spice up our learning time during the winter slump.

    They have indeed spiced things up, and provided the magic that fairy tales bring, something I don’t ever want to lose in our home.  Our ten year old did her own project and then begged to sit down with us every day because she couldn’t stand to miss the fun. We let her, of course.  If you’re homeschooling multiple children, these pockets are quite a find, a nice break from balancing multiple projects with many children.  It’s easy to simplify for younger children and add in more challenging connections for your olders.

    You can read more about what’s included in the pockets here.  I enjoyed the e-book, knowing that I could print just the right amount of copies for our family.

    What We Liked

    The selection of fairy tales included a handful of favorites and a handful of surprises.  Each story includes suggestions for extending the lessons and several hands on activities.  We enjoyed making finger puppets, a story mobile, paper doll elves, painting, and more.

    What Needed Adjustment

    As was true with our last Evan Moor Pockets, we needed library books to supplement each slim two page fairy tale that was included.  I also would have enjoyed more background information for my own preparation, such historical information on the folktales and fairytales along with a comparison of the two genres.

    Because the focus of the activities involves a lot of cutting and coloring, we can only do these pockets once or twice a year.  My kids are not big on coloring, preferring to sketch and fill in their own designs. But for some reason, coloring becomes all the rage when we keep these types of activities rare.  If you’re doing these pockets with just one student, you might think about coloring along with your child or allowing him the choice of coloring or not.  Remember, coloring a picture in the lines is really an overrated skill!  You could also move beyond crayons and markers and try watercolors, acrylics, or pastels.

    How We Organized the Pockets
    As much as we loved the Native American Pockets, our hard work ended with a bulky, oversized, unstable product.  This time we made the pockets the right size for a three ring binder. Smaller projects were stored in the pocket, larger items(such as the printed fairy tale) were hole punched and added after the pocket.



    Suggestions for Extended Activities:

    • Write your own fairy tale.
    • Write a new ending to an already written tale.
    • Write a fairy tale from the perspective of a different character (the frog or the witch instead of the Princess, for example).
    • Ask an older child to adapt a fairy tale into a play for younger siblings.
    • Read a biography about The Grimm Brothers.

    Here are some pictures from our learning time.

    The Brave Little Tailor


    The Fisherman and His Wife



    This was an art project inspired here, not an Evan Moor activity.

    Jack and the Beanstalk


    Measuring the beanstalk, an activity from the pockets.

    The Elves and the Shoemaker




    The template for these elves is included, the background is courtesy of the American Girl Molly Paper Dolls.

    The Frog Prince


    The Bremen Town Musicians




    This painting activity is inspired by a project in the pockets, but we based our illustrations on the style of Hans Fischer, shown below.


    Book and Video Suggestions:

    Henny Penny


    • Henny Penny by Jane Wattenberg
    • Chicken Little by Ed and Rebecca Emberley
    • Chicken Little on this Scholastic DVD Edition

    The Brave Little Tailor

    • The Brave Little Seamstress by Mary Pope Osborne

    The Fisherman and His Wife

    The Elves and the Shoemaker

    The Frog Prince


    • The Frog Prince or Iron Henry by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Illustrated by Binette Schroeder
    • The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Sczeika

    The Bremen Town Musicians


    The Bremen Town Musicians by Hans Fischer

    Other Fun Read-Alouds or Older Child

    • The Magician’s Boy by Susan Cooper
    • The Sister’s Grimm: The Fairy Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley *


    Into the Woods **

    *Parents may want to preview this selection.

    ** The musical is a really fun twist on fairy tales and a nice way to wrap up your fairy tale pockets.  However, you’ll want to preview this video and decide if it’s right for your family.  We chose to watch only the first act (which is as long as a regular kids movie) as we liked the content of the second half less.  And we didn’t like the scene with the wolf (it will be rather obvious why), so we just skipped that scene.