Tag Archives: summer

Bee-autiful Books

I want bees. I also want chickens but those are taking a backseat to my interest in beekeeping lately. This has been fueled by a few things: a Texan friend who began exploring the idea, our greater consumption of honey as the primary source of sugar used in this house, my love of all things beeswax, and this fantastic children’s book that made my beekeeping itch go rabid:

The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi. This is an excellent example of a “living book”. And these types of course, should live in abundance on your shelves. Published last year, this book caught me with the illustrations done in scrap collage style. It is the story of Fred, an apiarist in Brooklyn. That’s right, Brooklyn. Fred loves his bees and shows you the ins and outs of tending them. Urban beekeeping truly can happen! I need to do some research and save some money and talk to the fine folks who offer beginner classes… but I hope to make this dream a reality soon. Maybe 2013 will be my year as it’s already springtime and I’m behind the curve. At any rate, there are lots of books out there on the bee theme. Here I mention what I think are the very best:
The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco. Frolic the countryside with the pastoral imagery that Polacco captures so well.

The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci. A very fun, colorful, informative book on all things related to bees! Would make an excellent spine for a unit study.
The Honeybee and the Robber by Eric Carle. A sweet, moveable flap book that showcases Carle’s signature style… especially good for young readers.
 The Bee-Man of Orn by Frank Stockton. Truth be told, I found the story here a little bit strange… just a little left of center on how I like my fantasy books. But the artwork, by the very talented P.J. Lynch is stunning. So thoughtful and detailed and otherworldly… it’s worth the read for sure.

Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.

-James Russell Lowell


Flicka, Snapp, Snurr.

Do you know Maj Lindman? Seeing how she’s a Swedish author and during the wintertime, I’m hot and heavy over all things Scandinavian, I thought it a good time to rave about the wonderful little series she created in the 1930s and 40s. They’re still in print today!

Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr are three young triplets who get into all sorts of fun predicaments before a happy ending and good moral end the story. We’re not talking phenomenal storytelling here. But don’t be deceived by the Dick and Jane vintage illustrations either… there is a real, good, edifying story to be told. It’s so charming and happy and just the sort of thing to read to a houseful of rowdy boys to perhaps interest them into wanting a respectable sort of day.
My personal favorite is Snipp, Snapp, Snurr, and the Gingerbreadbecause you are guaranteed giggles over three batter covered boys…
Of course, there’s also Flicka, Ricka and Dicka who were something of heroines to me when I was a young girl. I always wished they could have been quadruplets and I could’ve been, oh I don’t know… Nicka? Sticka? Blicka? Whatever… I just wanted to have a gaggle of girls around me to have as much fun as these three had. I loved the story of Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and the New Dotted Dresseseven if it was terribly predictable.
See what’s so charming about these books is that they are so happily virtuous. They would never exist in today’s children’s literature world. The drama would be amped up. The girls would be seeking their individuality. But it’s quite refreshing to read a sweet, simple story about sweet, simple girls. And I think kids are inwardly hungry for this kind of innocent goodness. Think of Snipp, Snapp, Snurr, Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka as you would a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning topped off with a dollop of honey and cinnamon… wholesome, sweet, simply good for you.
Here’s a quick, random video that shows the inside of Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and their New Skates. The new edition comes complete with paper dolls!

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.

Top 10 Best Summer Books

This Top 10 list was almost impossible for me to make. Not only does summer encompass so many great topics, there are inumerable books which aren’t season specific that COULD be summer books. I am purposely leaving out some of my very favorite summer-toned books because they can be in a category by themselves. So hopefully we can look forward to a “Top 10 Beach Books” and “Top 10 Historical Fiction Books” and “Top 10 Baseball Books” etc. There are so many great titles out there, but I had to narrow it down somehow. The great news is that while I was perusing Amazon to refresh my brain and get the links for these books (click on pictures), I came across at good dozen or so books that I’d never heard of but which seemed very, very promising. So I’ll be checking those out at the library. For now though, I love the challenge of thinking “If I had only 10 summer books on my shelf, what would they be?” So in no particular order I offer these titles:

 Jamberry by Bruce Degan. This is an ode to the little children again as this book is full of fun rhymes and exciting berries… an excellent accompaniment to any berry-picking, canning, or pie making adventure.

 On a Summer Day by Lois Lenski.  There’s just no two ways about it, Lenski’s seasonal titles are perfect in every way.  I wish so much that these would be reissued; too many good books get lost in the out of print bins.

 Fireflies! by Julie Brinckloe. This book just captures the essence of summer all around. You can feel the warm night air and the excitement induced by the fireflies. Included is a great lesson in respect for nature.

 Blueberries For Sal by Robert McCloskey. This was my very favorite book as a little girl. I wasn’t alone in that sentiment as this book has delighted children for a few generations now. It really is a must-have.

 Summer Story by Jill Barklem. You can expect a Brambly Hedge book in each of my seasonal Top 10 lists simply because they are so great at telling a lovely story, hilighting the season, and delighting the eyes with intricate, detailed artwork. I am sad that I don’t actually OWN any Jill Barklem titles yet. She’s one of those authors who rarely turns up in second-hand sales.

 Thundercake by Patricia Polacco. Now that my friend pointed out a troublesome title by Polacco I will refrain from singing her glories, but she still does have some great books that shouldn’t be missed. Polacco is famous for her pastoral scenes of Russian peasantry. This particular book has all the great suspense of a pending thunderstorm and dealing with the fear that accompanies it. A bonus for including the real recipe for cake too! (I’ve never tried it; it includes tomatoes and I just can’t wrap my brain around that.)

 The Raft by Jim LaMarche. Jim LaMarche is a superb illustrator. The story in this book isn’t exactly full of wonder and magic but I chose this title because it has some excellent points that I like to emphasize with my own children. Nicky is sent to spend the summer with his grandmother who lives on the river. He is a bored, probably spoiled child who thinks it’s going to be boring. His world is opened up to all the wildlife on the river and the concept of drawing. This book is an excellent one for introducing the idea of nature journaling to children. Probably better for the over 6 crowd.

*****So these next three titles WERE going to be included in a whole ‘nother post featuring narrative style books. What this means is that these titles don’t tell a story in the traditional sense but they are the author’s memories or just sort of meander through a moment or season without a particular apex. This doesn’t mean they are bad stories, but they are to be appreciated on a different level I think… and there are more where this came from.*****

 Roxaboxen by Alice McClerran. I love this book. I love the sentiments it evokes and the memories from my own childhood it conjures up. I love how superbly ‘dead-of-summer’ it is. I love the ode to free, unconstructed play and imagination. Summer in our house this year is regrettably FULL of plans and structured activities and events. I’ll be sure not to overschedule next year as I long for those long, free open days when children have to figure out what to do…

 Island Boy by Barbara Cooney. My dear friend gave us this book when we were living on Whidbey Island and it’s struck a chord in my heart ever since. There is something different about island life and I love the history in this particular book. That, and the fact that I adore anything that Barbara Cooney has ever been a part of, make this a winner.

 Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey. I suppose this isn’t strictly summer since it spans several seasons but the climax does sort of hit with a hurricane. This book is a delight and McCloskey is one of my favorites for a good reason!

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.

~Wallace Stevens

A brief and incomplete primer on the American Revolution

A couple weeks ago I got on the library’s catalogue system and began hoarding all the great 4th of July books to my holds account. I came home later with a bunch of fantastic stories. Plus a few others from our home library have been floating around the house since we got really behind in our American history studies and are just now finishing our book (How Our Nation Began). The beautiful irony about this and one of the reasons I love homeschooling is that by getting off-track with so many side tangents in American history, we inadvertantly delayed getting to the climax–the American Revolution– until this week! How timely and wonderful is that?!

At any rate, the kids are eating up this history and I’m happy to let them explore all the great titles we have and borrowed from the library.

So our favorite books so far are the D’Aulaire biographies of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin but we have a couple other non-fiction books worth mentioning too. One of the most pleasant surprises has been found in the great purchase I made of Farmer George Plants a Nation. Biographical picture books just might be my favorite genre since they add so much depth to meaningful learning in a child’s brain. And Farmer George is a treat. Not many words are spent talking about our first president’s glory days as a soldier or his political dealings. Instead the book focuses on the much lesser known accomplishments of this man as a farmer and entrepreneur; he really did have a brilliant mind! We also have a funny little book called Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George?which offers a great and historically accurate perspective on the Revolution from the other side of the Atlantic. Then there’s Thomas Jefferson: A Picture Book Biographywhich isn’t as fascinating as Farmer George but it does offer an important look at an important man whose ideas still shape our world.

In addition to these are the myriad of books related to celebrating the Fourth itself. Star Spangled Banner books, Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land (great illustrations), America the Beautifuland the like. This topic is ripe with good books.

This Fourth of July, my children will be playing lawn games, eating hot dogs and apple pie, watching fireworks and hopefully having a small sense of wonder at just how it is that our nation began…