Thursday, January 28, 2016

Books about Snow :: Big Snow by Jonathan Bean and Blizzard by John Rocco


A couple weekends ago I was able to listen in to a part of the Read Aloud Revival's author talk with Jonathan Bean. This is the first one that I have sat in on and I didn't finish it, but it was very interesting listening to him talk with the host, Sarah Mackenzie, about how he creates and illustrates his books. While listening, I hopped on the library website and requested his book Big Snow. That led to a whole bunch of other winter book searching and we came home this week with these two winners when we dashed by to pick up our holds that came in.


Big Snow tells the story of David who is anxiously awaiting a BIG SNOW. He asks his mom throughout the day if the big snow has arrived, and mom tries to distract him with a few jobs around the house. However, everything he does reminds him of the snow that is to come. The flour falling into the cookie bowl reminds him of the snow coming down white and fine ... so he goes outside to check on the snow.


The clean white bedsheets remind him of the snow blanketing everything white and cool ... so he goes outside to check on the snow.


You'll have to read the rest of the book to find out if the big snow finally arrives. I loved the illustrations in the book and I think it captured perfectly a little boy's excitement on waiting for the snow to arrive. Something like this:

Watching the snow. Hoping to knock out our school this morning so we (they) can go out and play after lunch when we have some decent accumulation. ❄️

Our own dude waiting for the snow to accumulate last week.


The second book we brought home was called Blizzard by John Rocco and tells a boy's memories of the blizzard in 1978 that blanketed much of the East coast. My mother-in-law remembers this blizzard and how it impacted her that February in Ohio and the lack of power and inability to get out because of the snow. This story tells of the drifts as high as the house and how they had to go out the window to get outside. (You can imagine how quickly the boy here asked if he could climb out the window to get to the snow. Ahem).


It also tells about how food started to run low after being trapped for so many days and how the little boy because a hero in his neighborhood when he takes his sled and snowshoes his way to the small market and then delivers a small supply of provisions to the neighbors on the way back to his home.


We certainly enjoyed these two books that we found at the library and decided to share them in case you are looking for some fun winter reading in your homes. They have been on repeat here the last few days even though all our snow has long melted and we're supposed to be back up to sixty degrees this weekend (what?!) I'd be okay with a little more snow headed our way!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January's Reading Report ... or Lack Thereof

It's been a while since we've been in the routine of an evening read-aloud. The goal is to finish this one tonight. #readaloudrevivalWe started a new read aloud yesterday. #readaloudrevival #itssimplytuesday


January has been super slow on the reading front. My plans for lots of snuggling under blankets and reading lots of books didn't pan out for me quite as I expected ... some due to circumstances and some due to my own frittering away of my time. As of today, with four days left in the month, I've read:
  • Anna and the Swallow Man which was a young adult World War 2 book sent to me by Amazon to read and review. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it so I'm not going to say much about it period.
  • Winter by Marissa Meyers I finished this highly addictive science fiction series of books and could not put this down. That might have been one of the reasons that I had a hard time picking up another book. This book was pure candy and fun and it ended perfectly.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis One of my goals for January was to get us into a semi-routine of reading aloud a little bit on those cold evenings where we don't have anywhere to be. As a result, we finished re-reading the first Narnia book, this time with the boy who has not yet read these aloud. Always wonderful, no matter how many times I've read it.
  • We are currently about 2/3 of the way through Anne of Green Gables as our post-lunch read-aloud, but I don't think we'll finish it before the month is out.
And that's the list!


I tried reading The Trumpeter of Krakow for Amy's Newbery Challenge in January and I just couldn't get past the first two chapters. I'm sure it is the fault of the reader because I picked it up right after I finished Winter and two more different books couldn't be found. Poor timing on my part! I also have a ginormous stack of non-fiction that I want to start and it has resulted in some sort of paralysis because I'm having trouble just picking up one and getting going on it! It didn't help that I've been glued to my phone watching weather apps, twitter for school cancellations (so I know when the neighbors will be knocking on the door), and Facebook due to the winter weather we had last week and throughout the weekend. Not at all severe compared to what is happening in the East, but mildly paralyzing in our neck of the woods. Time to sever the phone from my hand, once again.

Here's to better reading in January with new goals and lists and plans! 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Arnold Lobel Treasury :: A Boy Recommended Read-Aloud


It's been a good long while since I've shared a boy-centric read-aloud in this spot. This book was one of the surprise hits of Christmas this year. I can honestly tell you that there have been very few nights that we have not read one of the stories from this treasury that I bought the boy. I have had the pictures languishing here for a while and today seems as good a day as any to share them!


Many moons ago (or really, something like seven years!) I blogged about an Arnold Lobel book that we happened on by chance at the library - The Great Blueness and Other Predicaments. This was one of those books that came home on repeat from the library, so much that I decided we needed to purchase a copy. Imagine my dismay when I found out that it was out of print and those copies that I did track down were well outside my budget for a loved children's book that I knew would get a lot of hand-holding in our house!

This year, I decided once again to hunt for it, as I'm realizing that I'm down to just a couple of die-hard picture book readers left here in my house. (Sniff, sniff.) When I found this treasury on Amazon, I immediately put it on the boy's list.


Arnold Lobel is probably most famous for his Frog and Toad books. The Great Blueness tells the story of a time where there was no color in the world. Every thing was gray; thus the period was called the Great Grayness. A wizard, who liked making things in his workshop was puttering around one day and came up with an interesting concoction - he called it BLUE! Once the townspeople saw the blue (and because they were so tired of the Great Grayness) they asked the wizard to share his blue with them and soon everything was blue.

Well, of course, there were problems with everything being blue, so the wizard makes another color. And another. Until finally the color challenged townspeople reach a solution that makes life wonderful and splendid! 


We found another gem in this treasury that also bears mention based on the number of repeat readings we have had. This is totally a boy story ... Prince Bertram the Bad is the only son of the King and Queen and he is bad. So bad that his parents just don't know what to do with him. Unfortunately for Bertram, one day he threw a rock and hit a witch who was flying by on her broomstick. She was not a fan of such treatment and turned him into a dragon! The story ends well (i.e., he doesn't stay a dragon) and we can chalk this up to another Lobel favorite in our house!

Other boy recommended read alouds:
Earl the Squirrel by Don Freeman
The Star Wars Little Golden Books
From the Boy's Shelf
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt / Books by Kate Messner
What He's Reading Now

Monday, January 18, 2016

Around Here


Around here we are finally seeing frost in the mornings and are very hopeful for a first snow later this week!


Around here someone is very into rescue bots and transformers. Boy toys really are quite cool.


Photo from @our.littlehouse on Instagram, because I can't figure out how to imbed an instagram shot other than a screen shot on my phone!

Around here I made some homemade almond coffee creamer for me and vanilla for a little girl that likes some coffee with her creamer. That's good stuff.

Introducing the girls to a side of Professor Snape that they have never seen. One of my favorites.

Around here, we are sad about the death of Professor Snape and introduced the girls to his other side this weekend with Sense and Sensibility. It has been several years since I have watched this movie and it is so so good.

Sunday family game night. Teaching the kids the finer points of Yahtzee.

Around here we are trying to have family game night on Sunday. Last night we taught the kids how to play Yahtzee and were creamed by the 9 year old.

Painting with egg yolk and chalk in the style of Giotto. #classicalconversations #itssimplytuesday

Around here we are back to Classical Conversations and art projects like painting with egg yolks and crushed chalk in the style of Giotto.


Around here it is Monday and the struggle is real. (Semi-staged photo). : ) It's hard to be a homeschooler and doing school on MLK Day when the public schools are out. We do school when Dad goes to work though, so it's all business here with a side of bacon to improve our mood, and we have a trip to the symphony later this week with friends to look forward to. For now, it's math, memory work, and reading aloud.

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 08, 2016

Around Here

Getting ready to fill in these boxes a bit since we are starting back to school tomorrow.Untitled

Around here we are getting back to school. (The top picture was taking Sunday afternoon. The bottom was taken on Friday afternoon.) I plot out where I think we are headed in pencil - generally just in math and our science/history loop - by Friday we can see how far we have gotten.

Lunch is @thepioneerwoman chickpea curry over rice. I made this last night with chicken instead of chickpeas and it is going in my lunch rotation of quick, hot lunches for winter. So so good.

Around here I'm menu planning for next week and making my grocery list. I'm trying a new menu planning system after using multiple free miscellaneous meal planning forms online. Super fancy - it involves a composition book from Target, coffee, and a pen. Highlighter optional. So far, so good. Pioneer Woman Chickpea Curry was eaten multiple times this week. Once at dinner with chicken and then I made a whole other batch of it for lunches with chickpeas.

We started a new read aloud yesterday. #readaloudrevival #itssimplytuesday

Around here we are starting a new read aloud for January.


Around here I am missing my cozy corner in my room. T set this up for me several weeks ago and I spend many a happy afternoon in my chair reading during our Christmas break. School is really cutting into my reading time.


Around here we are dangerously close to another child turning ten. However, said child made her brother a grilled cheese sandwich AND tomato soup today at lunch so sometimes I am OK with the whole growing up thing.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Favorite Books from 2015

I think this will be the last of my end of the year book posts! I published (to the right) the list of books that I read in 2015. The total came to 81 books for the year, but don't look at that list and be impressed. In fact, I'm rather not! As I reviewed my list, I realized that:
  1. I did a LOT of rereading this year. The summer, for example was spent with Anne rereading all 8 of those books and I don't regret it at all.
  2. I read a lot of kid-lit, i.e., The Dark is Rising Sequence, as well as many others for Amy's Newberry Challenge.
  3. There are several on there that I'm wishing I had skipped over ... namely anything that was considered a hit in the last year or so. Wasted pages.
Those disclaimers being said, I did read several winners. Those that stand out as worthy of mention from the last twelve months are:


Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting. This was one of the ones that I read for Amy's Newberry Challenge (actually the first one from last January) and I loved it. So much that I assigned it to N2 to read for this school year. A classic that is definitely worth reading. We never did get to the old movie with Rex Harrison which I'd still like to see! Blogged.

My Friday night. I am about 1/3 of the way through this book so far and it's pretty fascinating.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. This was actually a book that Amazon sent me to review and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this non-fiction work. To my knowledge this is the first book of Rubin's that I have read, and I thought she did an excellent job laying out her research and findings on habits and what kind of a person are you when it comes to forming habits. (I'm totally an obliger). This is a book that I wanted to come back and reread all year so I'm hoping to get to it again in 2016.

Where you'll find me. #itssimplytuesday

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon. The newest Jan Karon. Just being a new Jan Karon gets it on my best of the year list. : )

Blogged: March reading report. #shepherdslovebooks2015

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall. Same for a new Penderwicks. I adored this one and devoured it so I could hand it off to N1. As the girls are getting older the stories and getting deeper and, I think, more hard-beautiful. So good.
It's been a while since I've signed up to do a book review but I am seriously excited to be on this one. #SimplyTuesday

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman. This was another book that I signed up to review and it was such a timely read for me to slow down. Notice the small things that make up my everyday and be thankful in the regular, the small, the everyday. Highly recommend as well. Blogged.


All Four Stars by Tara Daiman. This was a new to me children's author that I stumbled upon at the library. The book was delicious (pun intended) and I shared some quotes from it here. I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel(s). Blogged.

As you can see my list is short! Honorable mention should go to:

  • Women in the Word by Jen Wilkin A reread, but an excellent one. This made my best list last year.
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. My first read of Sherlock Holmes for the Reading to Know bookclub. I'd love to read more Sherlock this year.
  • Connected by Erin Davis. A timely, well-written book on staying connected in our digital age. It's probably all something you have read before, but it was what I needed to read and be encouraged by at the right time and that's half of it, isn't it?
  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Totally a fun and frivolous read, but this series has absolutely hooked me in a most embarrassing way. Like, set everything aside and read it in a day, embarrassing. I admit that I was originally put off by the covers, but they have a fairy tale element with science fiction and cyborgs. What's not to love. : ) I predict that this will be the next big movie series from a young adult series, at least I am really hoping it is!
For 2016 .... I've set some slight boundaries for me in what I hope to read this coming year. Without being too strict on myself, I'm hoping to read 
  • several classics this year that I've never tried. Dickens and Jane Austin come to mind. I've only read Pride and Prejudice once, many years ago. Same with A Christmas Carol by Dickens. I need to try some of their other works! 
  • More non-fiction, period. 
  • More from my shelves. I have quite a few books around here that I keep wanting to get to and I'm hoping to try some of those out this year so they can either find a permanent home on my shelves or I can pass them on.
  • Less new fiction. Like I mentioned, almost every "new" adult fiction book I read this year, I disliked. It's going to have to be very, very, very highly recommended for me to pick it up.
Any literary goals for your 2016? Any suggestions for things that I should read that fall into my self-imposed categories? I've got my 2016 to-be-read list started to add titles to as well as my page for what I've finished. Now, the big decision is what to start first!

Friday, January 01, 2016

Our Read-Aloud Log for 2015

We have had a good year of reading aloud in our homeschool. We finished fifteen books altogether ... I'm noticing that the speed at which we are getting through books is decidedly slowing down as our books are getting bigger and taking longer. But, oh, we've read some good ones this year.

The current read-aloud. One of my favorites!

We started off January participating in Reading to Know's L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge and diving deep in with Sara Stanley and the King cousins in The Story Girl (blogged here and here) and The Golden Road. To copy my friend Amy, I asked my girls individually what their favorite read-alouds were from 2015, and these two books came in first place with the oldest girls. N1 has since listened to these two books over and over (and over) on her iPod this fall. That makes me very excited for the 2016 L.M.M. challenge which kicks off today! Reading L.M.M. is not for the faint of heart - it took us over two months to finish these two books, but it was time well spent. 


Our handy-dandy chart to keep the King cousins organized!

Starting a new read-aloud today. #shepherdslovebooks2015Starting our next read-aloud today! #readaloudrevival

In March we finished Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates. I shared a quote from this story here. In April, we fell hard in love with the rabbits of The Green Ember. If you have still not read this story, do it. Make it a 2016 resolution!

Next up in the read aloud list. We finished The Green Ember last week and read the last 60 or so pages straight through because we couldn't put it down. #readaloudrevival

All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (blogged) was a quick read for us at the end of April / early May and another huge hit with the girls. According to B, this was her favorite read-aloud of the year - enough that she requested more books in this series of the stories of five sisters for Christmas, which we were happy to provide!

New read aloud started yesterday. #shepherdslovebooks20153:45pm // we all need to sit and rest for a bit so read aloud time it is. #itssimplytuesday #aedayinthelife

In May, we also tackled The Secret Garden. This was a book I had tried to read with N1 when she was 5 or 6 and ended up setting aside for the time being. This time, they ate it up, as evidence by the fact that it came in second place for N2 as a favorite for the year. (She also mentioned how much she loved The Little Princess, but I had to remind her that was one of our reads from 2014 so I couldn't include it in this summary). : )

UntitledOur summer read-aloud routine has been terrible and next week is another week of tipsy turvy schedules. However, we did manage to start a new book today: The Castle of Llyr, 3rd book in the Chronicles of Prydian series, by Lloyd Alexander. #shepherdsloveb

Our read-aloud time slumped mightily this summer - older kids, lots of time spent at the pool, travels and summer camp cut into our days more that I expected. Not bad things, but it is a different season. We kept with our standard summer plan of moving on to a few sequels of ones that we loved during the school year - All of a Kind Family Downtown and The Castle of Llyr (Book 3 in The Prydian Chronicles). I don't recommend waiting as long as we did between books 2 and 3 of this fantasy series. One girl in particular wasn't a fan of it, mostly, I think, because it was hard to keep characters straight after such a long break.

This afternoon i listened to the @amlovelythings + Adam Andrews webinar on how to get your homeschool back on track when it inevitably derails. What is the one thing you can do to regroup and refocus. It was excellent and I'm already wishing I had been taStarting a new read aloud today. #weekinthelife #readaloudrevival

We started our back to school read-alouds with Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. We picked this one with the boy in mind after the girls made a list of their not-to-be-missed read-alouds that they wanted to make sure he heard ... and the fact that we were going to see the play at the local children's theater and wanted to refamiliarize ourselves with the story. After that, we dove into our first read-aloud that would tie in with our year of ancient civilization study and read Tizrah. (This might have been one of my favorites for the year, but I don't know that I can commit to just one!) It brought the book of Exodus alive for me in a new way, and since I'm not a huge fan of fictionalizing the Bible, that is saying something.

Friday afternoon: our current read-aloud, a new @thepioneerwoman coffee cup from @herdoftravis, and homemade peanut brittle from @candysgreer. Practically perfect in every way.

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss was another LONG read-aloud, lasting almost all of the month of September for us. It was a classic that I had never read, and I thoroughly enjoyed (as did the girls), though they will be quick to point out that it was NOTHING like the Disney movie. (I know, shock). We needed a short (easy) read after that and chose the The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith, prequel to The Green Ember. Have I mentioned you should read The Green Ember?

Our newest read aloud we started today.

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis Wilkins took most of October into early November and it was another great tie in with our history studies. Another one that I thoroughly enjoyed as I found the main character extremely sympathetic and well written.

New read aloud started today. I've managed to put off reading this one for at least a year! This closes the chapter of reading this series outloud to the girls ... but on the bright side, I get to read it all over with the boy! #readaloudrevivalUntitled
We finished our first Christmas chapter book today. #readaloudrevival #decemberdaily

We finished up November and December with The First Four Years, The Secret of the Old Clock, and The Family Under the Bridge. The First Four Years was one that I had put off for a couple of years now as it was the end of our (first) time reading through the Little House books, and because it is so much sadder that the other books (in my opinion). The Secret of the Old Clock was a fun (and much lighter) read after that, though I have said that I wouldn't highly recommend Nancy as a read aloud. One book was fun, but I'm glad we aren't making it a goal to read-aloud the whole series! We ended our year with The Family Under the Bridge and it was a sweet tale of Christmas in Paris and how hard times brought together an unlikely family. A short read and we finished it before we took a Christmas break from school.

I continue to be thankful for the wonderful books that we get to read-aloud together in our homeschooling journey. We actually took a big break from reading aloud over Christmas (three weeks!) As a consequence, we are all excited to pick our next book. As we had breakfast this morning we made some January plans for the book that we will start on Monday (hint: it's written by L.M. Montgomery!) and I'm also hoping to get us back into an evening read-aloud time routine at least a few nights a week.

Wishing you all a very happy new year and loads of good books in the coming twelve months for you!