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Hungry For Math by Kari-Lynn Winters, Lori Sherritt-Fleming, and Peggy Collins

Hungry for Math: Poems to Munch On by Kari-Lynn Winters, Lori Sherritt-Fleming, and Peggy Collins.

Poems galore fill this Canadian import, such as:

Hungry for Math: “He was hungry for math/ always ready to munch/ Math for his breakfast,/ math for his lunch.”

The Balanced Bee: (It’s symmetry!)

Rot-TEN Dragons: “Count fifty hiding dragons/ in five groups of ten.”

Move Around the Clock: A take-off on Hickory, Dickory Dock.

And my favorite, The Spendosaur: “Spendosaur, Spendosaur,/ hear him ROAR,/ thundering down to the candy store.”
The Spendosaur proceeds to spend all of his money on chocolate-dipped pickles, gumdrops smothered in swampy slime, gloppy-plops, and something big and expensive that eats up his very last penny. I want a gloppy-plop.

Although the meter felt just a little off in some of the poems, these would still be good for the beginning of math class, just to get children warmed up. Or you could read a poem a day during “circle time” or “morning time” until you’ve spent your last poem. Then, have a gloppy-plop.

More mathematical poetry books:
Marvelous Math, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. “An anthology of poetry with a mathematical theme.”
Arithme-Tickle: An Even Number of Odd Riddle-Rhymes by J. Patrick Lewis.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems by J. Patrick Lewis.
The Grapes of Math by Greg Tang.
Math For All Seasons: Mind-Stretching Math Riddles by Greg Tang.

Any other suggestions?

Sam and the Construction Site by Tjibbe Veldkamp

This over-sized picture book is a translation from the Dutch, illustrated by the Dutch illustrator Alice Hoogstad and translated by Ineke Lenting. It translates well. Sam is a little boy who loves watching the big machines at the construction site and imagining himself driving the steamroller or manipulating the crane. One day he’s left to keep an eye on the construction site while the workers go off to lunch.

“If anyone does enter the construction site, call the police!” says the boss. But will someone else call the police if Sam is the one who breaks the rules and enters the construction site?

Sam and the Construction Site is an exciting story for preschoolers, especially those who have a love for big machines and big adventures. The pictures themselves are big, and yet detailed, with hidden clues to the ending of the story that make the book a read-again-and-again book rather than a one time read. Sam has a bad reason for going into the construction site, a dare from some bigger boys, but then he has a good reason for his next rule-breaking actions.

What a great story and such an opening for discussion! Preschoolers might want to talk about rules and rule-breaking, dares, when to call the police, consequences, observational abilities, and of course, steam rollers, cement trucks, and cranes. Pair this one with Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, Trucks and New Road! by Gail Gibbons, Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherry Rinker, and Building a House by Byron Barton.

Other favorite building construction picture books?

Seven Things That Made Me Smile in April

April was a difficult month, but I’m not going to tell you about all the things that made me do the opposite of smile in April. (Hint: for one, initials are DT, and police were involved in another frown-maker.) Instead, I’m going to play Pollyanna and tell you about the stuff that made me smile, sometimes through the tears, this month in the grand old year of 2016.

1. Speaking of Pollyanna and the the “glad game”, this post at Living Books Library, called “Are You Glad?” made my day a little gladder (gladder or more glad?) when I read it.

2. Randy Acorn’s book, Happiness, was a compendium on the subject of happiness from a Biblical perspective. He quotes practically everyone from the Bible itself to St. Augustine to Matthew Henry to John Piper, and most every Christian writer or thinker in between, all on the subject of happiness. I didn’t finish the book because I had to return it to the library, but I think I need a copy of my own anyway so that I can dip into it whenever the frowns and grumps seem to be gaining the upper hand.

“Being happy in God and living righteously tastes far better for far longer than sin does. When my hunger and thirst for joy is satisfied by Christ, sin becomes unattractive. I say no to immorality not because I hate pleasure but because I want the enduring pleasure found in Christ.”
~Randy Alcorn, Happiness

3. Podcasts. I am truly glad to have discovered podcasts a few months ago. They have made my driving times and other times much more enjoyable. I found a couple of new-to-me podcasts to add to my growing list of favorites. Here’s the list of favorites, which I notice that I have never before posted here on Semicolon:

Read Aloud Revival. The lovely Sarah MacKenzie talks all things reading aloud with your children. She’s interviewed such guests as Sarah Clarkson, Andrew Pudewa, N.D. Wilson, Anne Bogel, Melissa Wiley, and many more. Excellent podcast.
Homeschooling IRL with Andy and Kendra Fletcher. “Discussing the topics that you might not find covered at your local homeschooling convention, veteran homeschooling parents and bloggers, Andy and Kendra Fletcher, use humor, honesty, and grace to pull the veil back on Christian homeschooling.” Good, encouraging, real stuff here.
The World and Everything In It, a daily, Monday through Friday, news update from the people at WORLD magazine.
What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy. I wrote about this new-to-me podcast here.
Two from NPR: This American Life and The Moth Podcast.
Two from the CIRCE Institute Podcast Network: The Mason Jar, about Charlotte Mason’s ideas on education, and Close Reads, a book discussion podcast.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.
Tea or Books? with Simon of Stuck in a Book and Rachel who blogs at Book Snob. This one is velly, velly British, and I’ve just listened to one episode so far. But I like it–if I can understand what the two podcasters are saying, what with my hearing loss and their accents.

What podcasts do you recommend to make me smile?

4. My youngest daughter will be acting in a musical called Malcolm at the end of May, based on the book by George MacDonald of the same name. The book was edited by Michael Phillips and republished as The Fisherman’s Lady, and it has a sequel, The Marquis’ Secret. These updated versions of Macdonald’s romantic novels are, I’ve been told, quite well done and useful for modern day readers who might have trouble with MacDonald’s use of Scottish dialect and Victorian language. I’m already smiling to think of watching Z-baby and her friends in the musical version of Malcolm, and I hope to read The Fisherman’s Lady and perhaps another one or two of MacDonald’s books in May.

5. I would take a picture if I could of the lovely books that I was able to purchase at Half-Price Books this week, a few additions to my library. But a list will have to suffice:
God King by Joanne Williamson.
Abigail Adams (Childhood of Famous Americans) by Jean Wagoner.
Rosa Parks (Childhood of Famous Americans) by Kathleen Kudlinski.
Elizabeth Blackwell (Childhood of Famous Americans) by Joanne Landers Henry.
*How Do I Love Thee? A Novel of Elizabeth Barrett Browning by Nancy Moser.
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool.
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema.
*The Sword and the Flame by Stephen Lawhead.
*The Dolphins of Laurentum by Caroline Lawrence.
*Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede.

I’m smiling about the ones I’ve already read and can now give to my family and library patrons and about the ones that I’m looking forward to reading (*).

6. WORLD magazine’s latest issue features children’s books, including an article about the WORLD Children’s Book of the Year, Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley, an interview with John Erikson, author of the Hank the Cowdog series, a discussion of Victorian author GA Henty and reading historical books in cultural context, and lots and lots of book suggestions. I was on the committee that picked the middle grade fiction Book of the Year and the runners-up, so I definitely had a smile on my face as I read the many articles about children’s books in this weeks issue of WORLD magazine.

7. I had three library open house dates for my private subscription lending library that I run out of my house here in southeast Houston. Several families came to visit, and it looks as if several will join the library. I really, really enjoy having a library for children and adults (mostly homeschoolers) and sharing my books with them.

Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo

Serendipity. I read two books this week about children who are traumatized and lose their ability to speak. I wondered how common this “selective mutism” or traumatized mutism is, so I looked it up. It turns out that selective mutism is rare, and mutism caused by trauma is quite rare, almost nonexistent. But it makes for a good story.

While fishing in the Scilly Isles off the coast of Britain, Alfie and his father find a young girl on a small, uninhabited island, and they bring her home with them. The girl is injured, near death, and she speaks only one word: “Lucy”. So they call her Lucy Lost, not knowing where she came from or how she came to be abandoned on the island. World War I is bringing changes to the island where Alfie lives, and Lucy becomes a victim of the islanders’ ignorance and fear as many of them come to believe that she is actually a German girl, perhaps even a spy.

One of the best World War I middle grade novels I’ve read, Listen to the Moon would be a good companion novel to Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, a nonfiction book about the sinking of the Lusitania. Read Dead Wake (for adults) first, and then read Morpurgo’s story of Lucy Lost, Listen to the Moon. In fact, I would have titled the book Lucy Lost instead of Listen to the Moon. Lucy Lost is more memorable, whereas Listen to the Moon sounds just like a dozen other book titles that wouldn’t stick in the mind for very long. (Yeah, I just typed in “moon” and “listen” in the search bar at Goodreads and came up with Goodnight Moon, Walk Two Moons, The Moon and More, Moon Over Manifest, The Moon Is Down, Just Listen, I Should Have Listened to the Moon, and too many more. I definitely have a future career as a book namer.)

The Roquefort Gang by Sandy Clifford

We’re three for one
and one for three.
The Roquefort Gang
is who we are!
Though danger’s near
we think not twice
What’s there to fear?
ARE WE NOT MICE?

What is it about mice? They make excellent book characters. Illustrators can dress them up in all sorts of costumes, and authors can give them human personalities and have them walk around on their hind legs while brandishing swords or canes or other tools and weapons with their tiny front paws. They’re just cute little animals—at least as anthropomorphized in books. Favorite mouse characters include Reepicheep (Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis), Stuart Little (E.B. White), Bernard and Bianca (The Rescuers by Margery Sharp), Ralph S. Mouse (Beverly Cleary), Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate diCamillo, Mouse Minor (The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck), Ben Franklin’s mouse friend Amos (Ben and Me by Robert Lawson), Norman the Doorman by Don Freeman, Mary Mouse (The Orphan and the Mouse by Martha Freeman).

Of course, there are many, many more. And now Giovanni, Sid, and Marlowe, the three mice of the Roquefort Gang, join the crowd of my favorite mouse characters. In this short book, 79 pages, the French immigrant mouse, Nicole, meets the Roquefort Gang in the dangerous Wild-berry Lot, and the four mice go on a rescue mission, similar to the one in the book/movie 101 Dalmatians or in Mrs. Frisby.

For any reader who might enjoy the books in the list above and others like them, The Roquefort Gang would be an easy read in this same category. I thought it was lots of fun, and I was sorry to see that Ms. Clifton only wrote this one book about the gang. It was interesting to me to see, however, that CBS had a Saturday morning animated series called Storybreak back in the 1985, and one of the episodes was based on The Roquefort Gang by Sandy Clifton.

Just Like David by Marguerite de Angeli

Jan Bloom writes in her authors’ guide, Who Should We Then Read?:

“From her earliest days, Marguerite had a desire to draw and paint. When not yet two years old she experimented with some pastels she found next to a portrait her father was sketching. She knew she must not touch the face so she did a border around it, using every color in the box of pastels. Her parents were stern, but loving. She was scolded but not punished for her artistic expression.”

Marguerite was a professional singer before she married, but after her first three children were born, she began drawing, hoping to become an illustrator. The first drawing she sold was to a Sunday School publication. Her first book, fourteen years later, was Henner’s Lydia, about an Amish girl. Marguerite de Angeli won the Newbery Award for her story of a boy handicapped by polio during the Middle Ages, A Door in the Wall.

I found Just Like David on the shelf in one of the local thrift stores that I frequent, looking for bargain book treasures. I had never heard of this particular de Angeli title, but I knew from looking at the illustrations and sampling the story that it would be good. The book is 122 pages long with nice large print, hardcover and lots of pictures; it’s we would nowadays call a “beginning chapter book”. Just Like David tells the story of a five year old boy, Jeffrey, who wants to go to school like his older brother, David. But Jeffrey is not old enough to attend school in Pennsylvania where his family lives. However, when the family decides to move to Ohio for Father to take a new job, there’s a chance, just a little “if”, that Jeffrey might be able to go to school, too, just like David.

Most of the story is about the car trip from Pennsylvania to Ohio. It’s quite an adventure for Mother and Father and three small boys (baby Henry is two years old). That the journey takes place in another era (the book was published in 1951) is obvious from the details: no seatbelt, no carseat for Henry, tollgate tickets, and thermos bottles. Some of these details would need to be explained to present day readers or listeners, but it would be fun to read along until you came to an unfamiliar word or phrase and then discuss. Father explains many unfamiliar concepts to David and Jeffrey as they go on their long car trip and then later as they explore their new home and it environs: things like courthouses and county seats and turnpikes and Indian arrow heads and fossils and many other discoveries that the boys make along the way.

Similar to Ms. de Angeli’s other books, Just Like David is a gentle story about a child growing up in a loving family. It might be a little slow for today’s media-fed children, but if Mister Rogers and Carolyn Haywood and Laura Ingalls Wilder are about your speed, Just Like David might be just right, too.

I thought it was a delight, and I learned a new expression: “put your mouth!” I tried to look up this idiom, used several times in the book by Jeffrey, David and their family, on the internet, but I got some rather nasty results and nothing that defined the term as they used it. From context, I think it means something like “unbelievable” or “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” Maybe it was something the de Angeli family said or an expression people in the midwest used back in the 1950’s. I rather like it and think I’ll try to revive the saying.

“I have eight of Mrs. de Angeli’s lovely books in my library now, and I’d be pleased as punch to have the rest of them!”
“Put your mouth!”

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Alzheimer’s seems to be serendipitously (is that word only for happy things?) popping up all over in my life lately. I saw a reference to a PBS special on Alzheimer’s on my Facebook feed last night, had a conversation about relatives with the disease a few days ago, and then, I read this book.

Still Alice is fiction told from the point of view of a research psychologist who is progressing, or regressing, into the fog of early-onset Alzheimer’s. I thought the author really understood the experience of a person who is diagnosed and then lives with the disease of Alzheimer’s. I suppose she ought to understand: she has degree in Biopsychology and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. But degrees don’t alway equal empathy and insight. The book is realistic and yet compassionate, not without hope. It would be a hard read for someone who has a relative or friend with Alzheimer’s, as do I, but ultimately I think it is encouraging rather than discouraging.

Lisa Genova seems to specialize in novels about characters with devastating injuries or illnesses and the family dynamics involved in such illnesses. In addition to Still Alice, she’s also written Left Neglected (about traumatic brain injury?TMI), Love Anthony (about an autistic child), and Inside the O’Briens (a father with Huntington’s Disease). I also read that there’s a movie based on the book Still Alice. Has anyone seen the movie or read any of Ms. Genova’s other books? What did you think?

“I used to know how the mind handled language, and I could communicate what I knew. I used to be someone who knew a lot. No one asks for my opinion or advice anymore. I miss that. I used to be curious and independent and confident. I miss being sure of things. There’s no peace in being unsure of everything all the time. I miss doing everything easily. I miss being a part of what’s happening. I miss feeling wanted. I miss my life and my family. I loved my life and family.”

“You’re so beautiful,” said Alice. “I’m afraid of looking at you and not knowing who you are.”
“I think that even if you don’t know who I am someday, you’ll still know that I love you.”
“What if I see you, and I don’t know that you’re my daughter, and I don’t know that you love me?”
“Then, I’ll tell you that I do, and you’ll believe me.”

I have two relatives currently living with Alzheimer’s, and one who died with Alzheimer’s, and what I have observed in them is that they have and had much the same personality before and after the onset of Alzheimer’s as they did before. All three of these relatives were joyful, giving, selfless people before they began to lose their memories and intellectual abilities. And they are still that kind of people, sometimes frustrated by their inability to recall things or to perform simple tasks, but still joyful, still generous, still themselves. I don’t know if that’s true of everyone who has Alzheimer’s. Maybe some people do truly lose themselves and become other. Maybe my relatives still will lose themselves. I hope not. Right now, they laugh a lot about their disabilities and memory lapses, and they know they are loved, even when they can’t recall the names of those who are their caregivers. May it always be so.

Code of Honor by Alan Gratz

Kamran Smith, football star, West Point applicant, and homecoming king, has spent his entire life admiring, following, and emulating his older brother, Darius. But now Darius is accused of a heinous crime: Darius’s face is all over the news, and he’s acting like a terrorist. Can an Army Ranger, West Point graduate, and all-around good guy like Darius really be brainwashed or persuaded into joining al-Qaeda or some shadowy group of radical Muslim terrorists?

Code of Honor is a timely and opportune look at honor and treachery and the psychology of the family member of an accused terrorist. The action in the book is pretty much non-stop, and yet Kamran has time to think a lot about trust and and loyalty and commitment and whether or not people are good or bad or some mixture of the two. Karan’s unrelenting faith in his brother is a little hard to swallow since by all appearances Darius has changed and become an adherent of jihadism. And Kamran’s escape from a secure government facility (CIA prison) was really difficult to read without a large dose of suspension of disbelief. However, I went along for the ride and enjoyed it for the most part.

The book could have taken a deeper look at what makes someone decide to become a jihadist or terrorist, but that’s not the direction the author chose to take. Instead, it’s an action thriller for young adults with an understated moral lesson about not judging by appearances and keeping faith with friends and family. I can deal with that.

Other YA books about Afghanistan, terrorism, American military in Muslim countries, etc.:

If You’re Reading This by Trent Reedy. As his senior year in high school begins, Mike receives a series of letters from his father who died in Afghanistan when Mike was eight years old.

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy. The fictional story of Zulaikha, a Muslim girl living in northern Afghanistan, based on the story of the real Zulaikha and on the stories of other people Mr. Reedy met during his time in Afghanistan.

Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams. When Cam’s brother, Ben, returns from Iraq with TBI (traumatic brain injury) and confined to a wheelchair, Cam sees only one way to impress Ben and get him to work at his own recovery: a bull-riding challenge.

The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klavan (and sequels). A thriller series that celebrates faith, karate, self-defense, and American values without being didactic or cheesy.

If We Survive by Andrew Klavan. Teenager Will Peterson and three friends, along with their youth director from church, go to some unspecified country in Central America to build a school. While they are there, a revolution takes place, and Will and his group are caught up in the violence and politics of the country.

The Terrorist by Caroline B. Cooney. Eleven year old American Billy is handed a mysterious package in a London Underground station, and his family’s lives are changed forever.

Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf

Alastair Roderick Craigellachie Dalhousie Gowan Donnybristle MacMac, aka Wee Gillis, doesn’t know which he wants to be: a Lowlander like his mother’s relations, calling cows, or a Highlander like his father’s relatives, stalking stags. He tries both out, but in the end he turns out to be something else entirely.

This picture book by Munro Leaf was published in 1938, two years after Leaf’s most famous picture book, The Story of Ferdinand. Both book share a common illustrator, Robert Lawson, and similar protagonists, seeking their identity. Ferdinand must decide what kind of bull he is, and Wee Gillis must choose how and where he will be a Scotsman. Lawson’s illustrations, black and white pen-and-ink, complement the story and its setting in Scotland with memorable, detailed facial features and clothing for Wee Gillis and all of his relatives.

Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson were in fact friends before Ferdinand was published in 1936, and Leaf actually wrote The Story of Ferdinand “on a whim in an afternoon in 1935, largely to provide his friend, illustrator Robert Lawson (then relatively unknown) a forum in which to showcase his talents.” Lawson went on to illustrate many more books, two others with Munro Leaf as author, The Story of Simpson and Sampson and an edition of Aesop’s Fables. Mr. Lawson also illustrated another book in 1938 that won a Newbery Honor in 1939, Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.

The details are what make this picture book stand the test of time: a picture of Wee Gillis yelling through the fog, Wee Gillis’s absurdly long name, the alliterative fun of “calling cows” and “stalking stags”, and the tempestuous tantrum that Wee Gillis’s uncles throw when trying to persuade him to choose either the Highlands or the Lowlands for his home. And of course the theme/plot of finding a way to reconcile both halves of your heritage and still become uniquely yourself is always timely.

Read to your primary and preschool age children and then, listen to some bagpipe music together:

Reviewing Old Books: March/April 2016

“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is especially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books…. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us.” ~C.S. Lewis

I have my Saturday Review of Books, a place for all the bloggers’ reviews from the past week to be linked and enjoyed. However, I thought today that it might be a good thing, once a week or once a month, to do a post where I round up the reviews I find of “old books”. We could all use a few more “old books” to season our reading lives and to give us a different perspective on things. Lewis was probably writing about really old books, written in classical Latin and Greek, but for the purposes of this round up, I’m going to go with 70 years old or more, so published before 1946. I’ll post the reviews I’ve come across this month of books more than 70 years old, and if you have written a review of a qualifying book or if you’ve seen one, please leave a link in the comments. I’ll be happy to pull it up into the post.

So, without further ado, the monthly (?) round up of reviews of old books, for your reading pleasure:

The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations by George Herbert (1633) at Operation Actually Read Bible.

An Account of the Life of Mr Richard Savage, Son of the Earl Rivers by Samuel Johnson (1744) at Tweetspeak.

Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville (1853) at Across the Page.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859) at Semicolon.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens (1870) at Happy Catholic.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (1889) at Barbara’s Stray Thoughts.

Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy (1899) at Semicolon.

Beatrix Potter’s Tales (1902-1905) at Simpler Pastimes.

I Will Repay by Baroness Orczy (1906) at journey-and-destination.

Sir Nigel by Arthur Conan Doyle (1906) at journey-and-destination.

Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter (1913) at Living Books Library.

Peacock Pie (1913) by Walter de la Mare at Wuthering Expectations.

South! The Story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Last Expedition, 1914-1917 by Ernest Shackleton (1919) at Margy Meanders/Powell River Books.

The Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck (1932) at Becky’s Book Reviews.

The Flowering of New England by Van Wyck Brooks (1936) at Faith, Fiction, Friends.

The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White (1938) at Barbara’s Stray Thoughts.

The Baker’s Daughter by DE Stevenson (1938) at Books and Chocolate.

New England Indian Summer 1865-1915 by Van Wyck Brooks (1940) at Faith, Fiction, Friends.

The Long Ships by Franz Gunnar Bengtsson (1941, 1945) at Brandywine Books.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1945) at journey-and-destination.

For more “old book” suggestions and reviews, check out:

The 1938 Club at Stuck in a Book. Here are the links to reviews of books published in 1938.

Books of the Century website lists best-selling books by year beginning in 1900.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2016.

The blog Simpler Pastimes has a Classic Children’s Literature event going on, where bloggers can add links to reviews of classic children’s books written at least 50 years ago, so published prior to 1966.