Tag Archives: farms

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of the Natural World, and a Giveaway!

“How many ways do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

The find of the year (so far) for me is this piece of glory from Julia Rothman called Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World.  The entire thing is the what makes me love to homeschool (and I needed a new boost in loving that lately).  The book is fabulous, and everything one could wish for in a “textbook.”

First, it’s chock full of interesting facts covering various areas of geology, botany, biology, meteorology and astronomy.  In being such a broad book, do we turn up our noses claiming it can’t offer depth in any one area? Sure. You may look down if you like. But what it DOES offer is so beautifully presented and academically enriching that you’d be missing something great by choosing a dry science book over this one.

And then there are the illustrations. Folksy, detailed, handwoven with love and care and interest.  My goodness, I’m in love!

This author is the same one who brought us Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life a few years ago. It had raving reviews but it was brand new to me this year.  I figured that I didn’t have a whole heckuva lot of interest in farm life on a technical scale so what would I get out of it?!  Little did I know that I’d lovingly turn each page in this too, admiring the art and the information each page provided.

Both books would be phenomenal springboards for deeper studies into any one area.  Nature Anatomy especially is such a breath of fresh air in this home.

I have the highly lauded (in Charlotte Mason circles anyway) Handbook of Nature Study and while the information in that is excellent, the photos are in greyscale and limited by their time period. And much to my ever-burning shame, it doesn’t get used nearly so much as I had planned. I’d like to think of this new Nature Anatomy filling in the gap in some way as being something fresh, useful, beautiful and worthy to include in our morning basket studies a few times a week. A must have in my opinion… you can virtually browse through it here.

I’m so in love with this book that I’m going to send it to one lucky person during this upcoming Easter season. I don’t know how I’ll choose a winner, but it’ll be non-scientifically random of course. If you have read through this post and are interested in receiving the book, just post a comment about something, anything, I don’t care— by Divine Mercy Sunday.  That day is my birthday and it would give me great delight to share the gift of this book with someone!


Spring Thaw

Winter isn’t hard and drastic here in the Puget Sound region of Washington State, but I know many parts of the US, and obviously much of Canada are still blanketed in snow. Spring Thaw is a book for dwellers of these parts. Steven Schnur is an author I only associated with his lovely, seasonal acrostic books (e.g. Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic, Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic etc.) before coming across this title, bought cheaply second-hand (unfortunately, Amazon sellers are savvy to the seasonal demand of things and this is currently marked up on that market).  Was I in for a treat!  The text is reflective and evocative:

The sun climbs high into the blue sky. By mid-morning a thousand tiny streams run from the roof like a curtain of crystal beads.

And the illustrations are an oil paint impasto that would be wonderful to see in person!  The story is very simple telling of the first day’s break in snow and ends with a farmer enjoying the pale, warm sunset on his face.  It is an exquisite March book…  I think I need to update my Top Ten Spring booklist and divide it into two categories! The fresh start of Spring/end of Winter books and then the general springtime list.  Anyway, I took a few photos of the inside of this book for you…


Katie Morag

Do you know Katie Morag? We were just introduced last year when a dear godmother sent my son Katie Morag Delivers the Mail.  It was followed up this year with Katie Morag and the Big Boy Cousins. My (carrot-topped) son is now six years old and he pretends to be offended to receive books starring a female protagonist. But he’s still the first one to curl up next to me when I pull them out! As it is, the series of books are very popular in the U.K. and don’t seem to be as widely known here. Pity though, because they are lots of fun. Right away I was drawn to three things:

*It’s about islanders. Ever since living on Whidbey Island, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for island stories. There’s something about being an islander that is very different than living on the mainland and I like to catch parts of that in stories like Katie Morag or such…
*It stars a red-head. Call it the Pippi Longstocking syndrome, but since I have two redheads of my own now, I’m always drawn to gingers… who tend to be spitfires.
*It’s based in Scotland! Who doesn’t love a good Scottish brogue? You can almost hear it in the characters in these stories…
And of course there are the illustrations. They are reminiscent of Barbara Cooney in some ways, just perfect for this setting of a feisty, little girl who lives on an island off of Scotland. Mairi Hedderwick is a talented author/illustrator and I love how easily she depicts the simple island life. The stories are simple fun, they aren’t action packed adventures with high adrenaline or anything… just plain, easy going goodness. Hedderwick makes sure that she doesn’t romanticize the pastoral, island life too much though and she includes stories of different changes and things that happen. There are some adults who want to call these stories very socially PC nowadays: some non stereotypical roles fit into the stories: Granny Island always wears overalls and she’s very handy too. The father can be seen doing the dishes in an apron at one point. And apparently there was a Grandpa Island at one point but they are not married and I’ve yet to find anything objectionable with that rarely-mentioned situation. The books even include some adult humor, not anything objectionable but little things that the children won’t catch. There is one interesting thing to note about these stories:
Hedderwick has unwittingly become part of a censorship struggle as she commonly depicts Katie’s mother breastfeeding the baby. I personally love this (“Train ’em young!”) when it’s done tastefully but there is one image in Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted in which the entire breast is exposed because the baby is looking back at his sister. (Here is the picture with the image blurred.) Some libraries have refused to stock the book because of this and Hedderwick’s editors were really skittish to want to leave it unedited. She has since said that she makes sure mother’s breast is now covered completely just to avoid the struggle with editors. I haven’t seen all the books so I’ll just take her word for it.
Still, if you are looking for something a little bit different and a little bit fun… Katie Morag might be just the ticket.

Journey Cake, Ho!

I drove a few miles and wasted a few dollars in gas to get to the county’s largest garage sale of the year. It was hyped up as a huge, huge event. Well, it was. And I immediately felt overstimulated by the crowds and items there, much of it very picked through by the time I showed up. I left spending a mere fifty cents on one item. This book, printed in 1953 and in mint condition. I picked it up because the illustrator is one of my favorites, Robert McCloskey. Of course it’s out of print now but the whole thing reminds once again about the tragedy of new books being that old books are no longer read…

The story is a sweet one of hard times ending full circle in sweet redemption. It’s one of those great non-PC books where the adults just kick the kids out into the world when they can’t afford to feed them anymore. Dear Johnny ends up saving the day though with his runaway journey cake. Enjoy some of these pictures!


Library Pick of the Week: Brother William’s Year

New in 2010 was a wonderful, living picture book called Brother William’s Year: A Monk at Westminster Abbey written and illustrated by Jan Pancheri. This was definitely our Libraray pick of the week (Maybe even month? Quarter? Pick of the year seems lofty but it would definitely be in contention for that prize!) Pancheri was the lead gardener of Westminster Abbey and has used this position to do research into “the way things used to be,” i.e., when the abbey was filled with Benedictine Monks before the property was stolen from the Church.

The book is a look at what medieval abbey life would’ve looked like each month of the year and since it’s January, the time is ripe for a picture book overview of seasonal life. Each page includes what’s happening in the gardens, which were of course the sustenance for the monks back then, not the pristine, manicured displays they are now. There are a couple recipes (Leek Soup!) and fun little tidbits to delight… like the building of a snow-monk. I want to build a snow monk this year!
I’m a fan of the book for a few reasons:
1-It’s historically accurate.
2-It’s reverent to the spiritual life without being a book meant to proselytize, thereby making it accessible to people of all faiths.
3- The art is just as lovely as the text.
4- I find the footnotes in the back very interesting.
Highly recommended.

Loving and Hating the Truth

This book by Arthur Geisert is not what you’d expect. I picked it up at the library because I was initially attracted to the illustration style. But I was in for a surprise. In fact, in the seemingly hundreds of farm books or scenes I’ve seen in children’s stories, I’ve never seen anything like this. At first I hated it. Then I thought I kind of liked it. Today, I am decidedly ambivalent. Farm scenes in children’s books are idyllic places; there is a big, red barn and happy, healthy animals wandering about while Farmer Bob in his overalls, tips his hat from his old John Deere tractor. Farm-life is a common thing to encounter in the world of children’s literature because we present it as such a lovely, interesting place and ripe for learning opportunities. Country Road ABC does not do that. It tells it like it is. Most of American farmers–those who make a living by farming anyway– are more like agro-industrial scientists and less like Old MacDonald. What would make for some good words in a Country Road ABC book? A is for… what? Apples? Animals? Autumn? No. A is for Ammonia fertilizer. How about G is for Grinding Feed or I is for Inoculate? Not your typical farm words. But real and important nonetheless. The book contains a glossary explaining more about these words. On the M is for milking page, forget the sweet idea of a plump Mrs. MacDonald sitting on a stool with her hair in a bun and a smile on her face as she milks a cow. Instead see a man hooking up industrial milking machines to a cow that’s secured in a steel harnessed area. Disarming as this all is, I think it’s useful information. Why not let kids know the truth about where their food comes from? Most of us don’t have the resources to allow us to buy from local, organic, sustainable farms all the time. So this is reality folks! And while it may be less pleasant than a “Quack, quack here and a quack, quack there” I think reality does have its place in a children’s book.

However if you remain unconvinced and prefer the traditional farm imagery, here are some favorite titles off the top of my head, just for kicks:

Rosie’s Walk
The Little Farm
A Farmer’s Alphabet
The Little Red Hen
Ox-Cart Man
Big Red Barn