Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Winter at Valley Forge

Winter at Valley Forge (Graphic History)is another book in the graphic library history series.

Matt Doeden does a quick introduction to the American Revolution and settles into explaining what happened to the colonial troops during the winter Washington spent camped at Valley Forge. His details and descriptions are age appropriate for elementary students to understand the hardships and challenges faced by the soldiers without exposing them to details that younger students are not prepared to handle.

He introduces Lafayette and Von Stueben to the reader with a brief introduction. The author presented more information than I have found in many children's text on these men. However, I am beginning to suspect this series has a text limit because there always seems to be an emphasis in one area that is well written and detailed. Then other areas seem to get a quick pass.

Told in graphic novel format, this is a way to engage students in reading about Washington's winter at Valley Forge. This book works differently than other books on the topic, since the focus in this book is on living conditions and survival during the winter at Valley Forge. I would include it with other resources to give students a broader picture of life during the American Revolution.

Monday, March 26, 2012

If You Were a Homonym or a Homophone

If You Were a Homonym or a Homophone (Word Fun) is the best of the books I've reviewed in the Word Fun series so far.

I wish this book had been available for my classroom when I was teaching this topic. I used to try to find many creative ways to illustrate the definitions of the words and the differences between them, but this author does it simply and clearly. It is a resource book you use to review the topic at any time. I have never seen the topic explained this easily in any textbook I have used to teach Language Arts.

Nancy Loewen defines each term and then provides illustrated examples of homonyms and the often misused term homophone. When I saw her presentation, I wondered why this is not done more often to teach children how to distinguish between the two words.

This is a simple way to introduce, review, or reteach a topic that some kids do find challenging.

This is a book you could introduce to young children to get them familiar with the words and bring back to reinforce the idea as they continue to work with words. I am often skeptical of "cute" series titles, but Word Fun does fit this series.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Boston Massacre

While there are many children's books that cover the events of Lexington and Concord it is much harder to find accurate, age appropriate material that covers the Boston Massacre. The Boston Massacre (Graphic History)by Michael Burgan is another entry in the Graphic history series.

This book starts with the conflicts and issues leading up to the mob scene that resulted in the British Regulars firing on colonial citizens. It discusses the Stamp Acts and the reaction that arose after the colonists found out their long standing relationship with Great Britain and taxes had changed.

The book does something few on the topic do, it gives the reader a bit of perspective on how the loyalists felt by telling the story of a loyalist shopkeeper who was attacked by mobs determined not only to harm his business, but his person. Many textbooks fail to address that the mobs in Boston were not just a concern to the British, but to Colonial leaders as well. While they disagreed with the tax policies and the monopolies that the British government imposed, they were also aware of the danger uncontrolled mobs posed to their futures as well. While they proved useful in creating disturbances such as they Boston Tea Party that rallied public outrage, they were aware of the dangers that could occur should they lose control of the mob's focus, too.

The book does not address how the incident came to be known as the Boston Massacre when similar previous encounters did not reach this level of colonial outrage. That is something teachers and parents will have to seek other resources to discover.

It does however, address John Adam's involvement with the trial of the soldiers accused of murdering civilians in the incident. His actions in defending the soldiers created some animosity between Adams and certain colonial leaders. Adams felt that instead it created the legitimacy of the movement. It was not a mob movement, but one that respected the rule of law.

This book does a good job at trying to recreate the very hostile atmosphere of an occupied Boston. Loyalists had issues with those who sought more freedom. Tensions occurred as a distant Parliament sought more control and instead created more chaos. Orders like the Quartering Act which seemed reasonable to the British government, only created more anger and tension. This in turn gave more support to mobs, which in more reasonable times, people would have turned against.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Goldilocks Returns

It appears Goldilocks has been feeling guilty about how she treated the bears all those years ago and in Goldilocks Returnsshe visits the home of the bears determined to make amends. One confusing item in the book is that while Goldilocks has obviously aged in fifty years, Mama, Papa, and Baby do not look a year older. Must be that fairy tale land magic.

Goldilocks’ life has been shaped by her breaking and entering days. She has become an expert locksmith and sets to putting locks on the bear's home to prevent others like herself from breaking in and then sets to work remaking their lives.

She throws out their food, redecorates their home, and corrects all the "problems" she thought she encountered when she visited the home previously. The bear are horrified that having violated their space once, she has returned and has no idea that her attempts to help are so offensive to them. Goldilocks leaves thinking she has redeemed her earlier actions and saved the bears from themselves.

This story creates some interesting questions for young and old alike. Where are the boundaries for intervention? Just because we want to help, is it OK to change the way others live? As Goldilocks remakes the bears’ home into a home into a home she would enjoy, what could she have done instead that the bears would have appreciated? Did she really make amends for what she did before or did she again violate their home, just in a different way?

This is a thought provoking alternate fairy tale. It could generate some interesting discussions about helping others and boundaries.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Voyage of the Mayflower

The Voyage of the Mayflower (Graphic History)is another wonderful addition to the Graphic History series.

Allison Lassieur does a great job in providing children with accurate information and vocabulary. She uses the word Separatists to refer to the travelers, which is not only accurate, but also easier to explain to children than the more common term Pilgrims. The book does not start with the travelers boarding the ship or already on the ship, but explains what life was like for the community living in Holland. This ultimately provides students with a deeper understanding of their motivations for leaving and making a journey to lands none of the future settlers had been to prior to this trip.

The book also addresses another area that often is ignored, the financing of the trip. The book discusses the financial backing they required. It mentions them seeking out Thomas Weston and how they recruited other people to make the journey who did not share their religious beliefs, labeling them strangers. These additional passengers were required to meet the financial obligations of the journey. The book also explains some of the issues that arose as the second ship, the Speedwell was not able to continue with the journey.

The strongest parts of the book were those that discussed the journey. The book loses some of its focus when the settlers arrive in the New World and the author appears to be hurrying to a finish. I would suggest this as a resource for learning about the Separatists and the journey of the Mayflower and seeking information about the settlement from other resources.

I continue to be amazed at the quality and accuracy of the information that is provided in the graphic novel format. These books are appropriate for younger students and can be used with older students too. They would be especially useful for older students that may struggle with reading or have second language challenges. The information is accessible, but still very accurate.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

If You Were a Fraction

If You Were a Fraction (Math Fun)is a wonderful book in Trisha Shaskan's Math Fun series. I am a firm believer that it is never too early to introduce children to math vocabulary and even basic concepts as long as it is done in a fun and age appropriate way.

This book introduces fractions in a way that meets those goals. Wonderful pictures help illustrate basic fraction concepts in a simple non-threatening way. Young children can be introduced to the vocabulary and ideas of fractions and older children who may be struggling with textbooks may find this a simple way to understand missed concepts.

I would not suggest worksheets to accompany the book, but introducing children to math vocabulary and ideas with fun picture books is a great start to math education. The more kids see the ideas, the more comfortable they become with the concepts without any need for drill and kill.

These are the kinds of books that can reduce fear of math. They help kids see math more clearly and help develop vocabulary and concepts that kids will need to function in math class. I only wish there had been more math literature when I was learning math.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Six Flags New England AAA Discount 2012

See updated 2014 AAA Six Flags New England discounts on this blog entry here.

Six Flags New England is opening April 14, 2012. Ticket prices and information are posted on Six Flag's website here. Prices have gone up from last year.

You can buy tickets online in advance for $39.00 I don't know if there is a charge involved.

Adults and Children over 54": 49.99
Under 54": 39.99
Under 2: Free
Season Pass: $59.99
Preferred Parking: $25
Season's Pass Parking at New England Only: $55

AAA has listed their deals for the Six Flag's 2012 season on their website here.

AAA offers standard discounts at all Six Flags parks across the country that you can check out here. However, there are special deals for Six Flags New England. Purchase your tickets in advance and get $28 park tickets and $13 parking passes. A substantial savings especially if you are going with a group.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cinderella is So Annoying!

Seriously, Cinderella Is SO Annoying!: The Story of Cinderella as Told by the Wicked Stepmother (The Other Side of the Story)is by far the strongest book in the Other Side of the Story series I have reviewed so far.

Trisha Shaskan presents the story of Cinderella from the stepmother's perspective. It is one of the most convincing tales in the series and gives some insight as to what happened to Cinderella after her father married. If the stepmother was in fact this good at convincing outsiders that Cinderella was talking to animals and that she was doing her best to keep things stable with an absent father, it explains much about the lack of outside intervention in Cinderella's life prior to meeting the prince.

The stepmother clearly states she saw no alarming behavior prior to her marriage, but after the father abandons them to business shortly after the marriage, her eccentric behaviors emerge. The stepmother's tale becomes a bit confused trying to explain why the prince chooses Cinderella. However, considering the strong arguments up to that point I expected that her tale would have some holes eventually. The one real weakness was throwing in the comment that she and her daughters were the ones who lived happily ever after while the prince had to live with Cinderella. That spoiled what had been a good attempt at justifying her actions and actually creating some reasonable doubt.

I wish Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten!: The Story of Little Red Riding Hood as Told by the Wolf (The Other Side of the Story)had the same strength in storytelling. Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks!: The Story of the Three Bears as Told by Baby Bear (The Other Side of the Story)came closer, but still did not match the arguments the stepmother makes for her actions. I have Trust Me, Jack's Beanstalk Stinks!: The Story of Jack and the Beanstalk as Told by the Giant (The Other Side of the Story)on reserve at the library so I'll be able to see where it falls on the spectrum of this series.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If You Were a Contraction

If You Were a Contraction (Word Fun)is another book by Trisha Shaskan in the Word Fun series.

This is another wonderful fun low pressure way to introduce children to the basics of the English language. The pictures are fun and the language skills low pressure. The author introduces the apostrophe and then demonstrates how words are blended into contractions and provides an area that specifically shows these words as separate words and then the equivalent contractions.

This would be a engaging way to introduce young children to the concept of contractions. It is also a way to go back and work with children who might be struggling with a more textbook lesson version of teaching contractions. It is non-threatening and provides accurate information in a fun format.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Science Court Troll Book Series

Science Court appeared for one season on ABC as a cartoon series that taught kids about science through funny courtroom dramas. Tom Snyder developed a classroom curriculum that is multimedia based on the same series.

I am trying to locate the Troll Book series not the Tom Snyder series for a homeschooling family member. I recently ran across a list created by a teacher for another out of print series that I was trying to purchase which has made finding those books easier so I thought I would share my findings so others could add their knowledge or benefit from what I've learned.

If you have any knowledge of how many books Troll published in the series, any of the names of the books I am missing, I am asking you to post them in the comments section so I can finish finding them for my family member. I will add the information to the list to help anyone else who may be looking for the material, too. I am not looking for information about the Tom Snyder multimedia materials as those are designed more for classroom use. However, as I come across any resources I will add them for others.

If I find the online video links for the series I will add those to this post, too.

The series is called Science Court to Serve and Observe
The series is numbered
Publisher: Troll Books

The Case of the Dear Departed Chicken Bone Book 1
Author: Craig Strasshofer Published: 1998

The Case of the Tilting Planet Book 2
Author: Craig Strasshofer Published: 1998

The Case of the Lean Mean Dirt Machine Book 3
Author: Craig Strasshofer Published: 1998

The Case of the Incredible Expanding Molecules Book 4
Author: Thomas H. Hatch Published: 1998

The Case of the Late Great Kaboom! Book 5
Author:Craig Strasshofer Published: 1998

The Case of the Big Drip Book 6
Author:Craig Strasshofer Published: 1998

Free Tom Snyder Resources:

Songs and Lyrics

Story Summeries and Activities with Cartoon Pictures:





Water Cycle


Monday, March 5, 2012

Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks!

Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks!: The Story of the Three Bears as Told by Baby Bear (The Other Side of the Story)is a much stronger entry in the Other Side of the Stories series than the previous book I reviewed from the series,Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten!: The Story of Little Red Riding Hood as Told by the Wolf (The Other Side of the Story) a few weeks ago. In fairness it does have a different author so that does provide thus a different style.

In this story, Baby Bear or Sam as he prefers to be called narrates the story. Instead of being angry at Goldilocks for breaking and entering, he actually admires her and wants to be friends. It turns out Goldilocks has been challenged to a truth or dare activity by Red Riding Hood. Goldilocks is using her cell phone to provide proof that she has completed the dares and Sam clearly indicates her remorse by telling the readers she realizes her allowance is gone when the chair breaks.

While the story does not find a way to justify Goldilocks’ actions, it does indicate while thoughtless she did intend no actual physical harm to the family. She intends to provide restitution for her financial harm. The author is a bit murky about the ethics of breaking into someone’s home to perform a prank. It actually is a good book to discuss how these pranks have the potential to create damage and have consequences never considered prior to taking them on. It is never a bad idea to get kids to think about cause and effect.

One of my favorite lines in the book is when she calls Red Riding Hood, "Little Miss Hoodie." I have always envisioned a world where the nursery rhyme and fairytale characters know and interact with each other outside their "book" life. I could see where Red and Goldilocks’ teenage selves could get into quite a bit of trouble together.

I've joined Canadian Home Learning's Book Sharing Monday.