Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Celebrating John J. Audubon

Wildlife artist John James Audubon was born on this day in 1785.  His paintings and descriptions of the birds of America are familiar to and appreciated by birders everywhere.  While he is one of the most famous avian illustrators, he is not one of the founders of the Audubon Society.  His name was chosen because his work inspired the organization's efforts to protect birds and their habitats. 

Some links we'll be using today to learn about the man and his life's work:

Enchanted Learning's Audubon page and coloring pages of several of his paintings.

New York Historical Society's Audubon's Aviary exhibit mp3s and images

The National Gallery of Art's information and images

Other resources:

The Boy Who Drew Birds, by Jacqueline Davies with illustrations by Melissa Sweet

Birds of America, by John J. Audubon

John James Audubon: Drawn from Nature (2006) on Netflix Streaming

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book Sharing Monday - Poetry books for Patriots' Day

I had never heard of Patriots' Day until we moved to Massachusetts over a decade ago.  Commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord, the holiday is a huge deal in this area: parades and celebrations abound.  Evidently the day is also celebrated in Maine, but it was completely off my radar during the four years I lived there.

While my crowd-shunning family rarely goes to parades, we do enjoy a patriotic read from time to time.  Here, then, are a few books of American poetry for kids that we found last week at a local library.

The Smithsonian Institution's Celebrate America in Poetry and Art, edited by Nora Panzer.  This book pairs prints or photos of artwork from the National Museum of American Art with poetry by American poets.  Carl Sandburg's "Niagara" with George Innes's painting of the same name, for instance, and a selection from Maya Angelou's "On the Pulse of Morning" with a print by commercial illustrator George Giusti, as another example, make this book one to savor.

The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems, edited by Donald Hall.  This book contains poems from anonymous Native Americans to Sarah Josepha Hale to many well known 18th and 19th century poets all the way through to some lesser known 20th century writers.  It seems to have something for everyone, and ranges from the solemn (Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes) to the poignant (Rachel Field) to the silly (Nash, Prelutsky, Seuss, and Silverstein).

A Revolutionary Field Trip: Poems of Colonial America, by Susan Katz with illustrations by R.W. Alley. This cartoonish book of amusing yet informative poetry for younger children ("Grace Dips a Candle," "Blacksmith Shop," and "Shearing Poor George" are three of the twenty titles in the book)  would be a good accompaniment to a real field trip to a historical reenactment site such as Old Sturbridge Village or Plymouth Plantation or a similar colonial American site.

Especially appropriate for Massachusetts readers on Patriot's Day is the ever popular "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere."  Several illustrators have taken on the task of illustrating Longfellow's poem, and one we like especially is the one illustrated by Christopher Bing's engraved paintings.

I've saved the best for last.  My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States, with poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins; illustrated by Stephen Alcorn.  Each region of the country is represented by several poems and a map, and each state is given its own box with capital, nickname, etc. as well as a Great Fact or two.  For instance, did you know that the first baseball World Series games were played in Boston in 1903?  (I didn't.)  The Boston Pilgrims were victorious over the Pittsburgh Pirates. ☺  Poets represented in the book include David McCord, Frank Asch, Carl Sandburg, X.J. Kennedy, Myra Cohn Livingston, Elizabeth Coatsworth, Douglas Florian, and many more.  Highly recommended.

Happy reading!  Book Sharing Monday is hosted by Canadian Home Learning.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

And now for something a little different. . .

National Screen Free Week always coincides with spring vacation week here in New England.  I think a conspiracy is afoot.  While we, as homeschoolers, do not have to follow the school district's schedule, I find that we usually do, for one reason or another.  It would be easier (I think) to be screen free during a week when our normal activities were still happening, but we're going to give it the old college try, anyway.

We've never participated in Turn Off Your TV Week (the phenomenon's former moniker) before, but at this point in our house our media viewing (TV, movies, computer games, Xbox, iPods, etc.) is at an all time high and I think we will all benefit from a break.  I'll have at least one blog post scheduled to appear (Book Sharing Monday), but other than a few minutes each morning and evening to check and respond to emails, I don't expect to be around at all in an online capacity.

What we plan to do in the coming week:

bake cookies at least once

finally get to that Marc Chagall-inspired watercolor project I've been wanting to do with the kids

go for a long walk or hike on a day that the weather is nice, maybe even at a beach

meet up with friends

listen to lots of music

listen to some audiobooks (we picked up Hotel for Dogs, The Magician's Elephant, and Risby at the library yesterday, and I finally broke down and bought Story of the World vol. 3 on audio CD in case we head out on a longer car trip or two)

play board games

do some Pysanky egg decorating

finally do some of the experiments in Physics Experiments for Children

I know Alex and co. over at Canadian Home Learning are participating in Screen Free Week, as well.  Anyone else?  More ideas are welcome.  : )

Photo courtesy of nestingdolls.net

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Sharing Monday - Poetry books

Since April is poetry month, I thought I'd share some of the poetry books we think are worth keeping on our shelves.  I just realized that my fluorescent orange copy of Chief Modern Poets of Britain and America is missing from this photo, as is Leaves of Grass.  Those are in with the classic literature in the study, but for some reason Antonia Fraser's Scottish Love Poems is on with a shelf of mostly kid-friendly titles!

For learning about poetry, we have Michael Clay Thompson's Music of the Hemispheres and Building Poems from Royal Fireworks Press, as well as Knock at a Star, by X.J. Kennedy and Dorothy M. Kennedy.  I also have a copy of Rose, Where Did You Get that Red? by Kenneth Koch, which must be out on loan (or is in another stack or on another shelf somewhere in this house that is full of what I like to call d├ęcor des livres when I'm not complaining about a house stuck in the "late grad school" period).  I give all four my highest recommendation for teaching kids from about grades 3-8.  

Some favorite anthologies include Helen Ferris's Favorite Poems Old and New and A Journey through Time in Verse and Rhyme, edited by Heather Thomas.  We've begun many a fine day of learning at home with poems from these two books.

No children's book collection is complete without at least some Shel Silverstein!  That copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends is my own well-loved copy from thirty-some years ago.  And another childhood favorite of mine that I bought just after Jazz was born is The World of Christopher Robin, which has both A.A. Milne volumes of poetry: When We Were Very Young, and Now We Are Six

My eldest child knows me very well, and his thoughtful gift last Mother's Day was Haiku: An Anthology of Japanese Poems, edited by Stephen Addiss.  Highly recommended.

Children's book illustrator Susan Jeffers has illustrated at least a couple of books based on famous poems, including Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost, and Hiawatha, by Henry Longfellow.  Her fairy tales are not to be missed, too!

For more picture books, try Jane Yolen's Ring of Earth (a gorgeous book of poetry about the seasons) and Caroline Kennedy's collection, A Family of Poems.  Missing from the photo above are two of our very favorite poetry books, which are off the shelf because they've been in use quite a bit this month: Talking Like the Rain (short poems for young children illustrated by Jane Dyer), Poetry by Heart, edited by Liz Attenborough.  We also like the Poetry for Young People series, which has over twenty titles which are still in print and widely available.

Book Sharing Monday is hosted by Canadian Home Learning.  Hop on over and join the fun!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Friday, April 01, 2011

Poetry and Photo Friday

For the first time in a long time I had both of the older two kiddos do some memorization this week.  Jazz headed straight for Where the Sidewalk Ends to find a poem that should have been appropriate for April:


   I opened my eyes
   And looked up at the rain,
   And it dripped in my head
   And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

   I step very softly,
   I walk very slow,
   I can't do a handstand--
   I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said--
I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.

by Shel Silverstein

But I think that, given the date and what our backyard currently looks like (see photos below), this one is more appropriate:


Oh have you head it's time for vaccinations?
I think someone put salt in your tea.
They're giving us eleven-month vacations.
And Florida has sunk into the sea.

Oh have you heard the President has measles?
The principal has just burned down the school.
Your hair is full of ants and purple weasels--
                  APRIL FOOL!

by Shel Silverstein