Simple Learning & Day #15… Books on a Theme

One of the favorite Christmas presents this year was a tiny bit “retro”…


A brand new version of The Farmer Says…

Just like the ones Hubs and I had as kids…

…And our girls had as kids…

…Same animals, same farmer making the sounds.

The only difference is the size… It’s much smaller and
much easier for little hands to hold and operate.

And it created quite an interest in farm critters among the toddler crowd.

And when interest is at its peak, what better time to pull
together an impromptu Farm Theme Unit Study?

Not a “sit down and do school” sort of unit study, but a small
pile of toys and books that all follow the same theme.


The barn and critters were an eBay find… Looking for more critters to fill out the barnyard!

And then we looked for books…


Some of the board books were from our stash here at home, and a few are from the library. (Actually, we fell in love with a couple of the library books and went searching on Amazon for our own copies!) When I went digging through our books, I was surprised at how many focused on farm animal sounds! Little Blue Truck  and The Very Busy Spider were already popular reads around here, but it hadn’t crossed my mind that they were about farm animals.

One of my favorite new finds, is Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton. There’s even a fun “reading” of it on YouTube, which thrilled my Civil War dancing heart. (Dancing to it in a crazy sort of way also thrills the heart of a certain little man!)

The plan is to leave these toys and books out during the whole month of January, and play with them often. It’ll be neat to see how many animal sounds we learn, and which animals names we can recognize at the end of the month. So far we have “moo” and “baaa” down, as well as a very impressive monkey sound, thanks to Curious George. (Maybe next month we’ll move on to a Noah’s Ark theme? I don’t know very many farms that have monkeys.)

Day # 14 – Books Without Words!

How do you read a book that has no words?

By looking at the picture, of course!

Children’s book illustrators are experts at telling stories through pictures. Most of the time, picture books for young children are limited to about 1000 words, so obviously many of the details of the story must be “told” in the illustrations. Wordless books (or almost wordless) take the illustrations to a whole new level… they tell the entire story! And, they give children an opportunity to make up the story themselves! They are not just for little folks, either, but can even be appealing to older kids!

A few favorites…

Written by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Patrice Barton

Yes, this (almost) wordless book was “written!” Even though the only word in this book is “Mine,” the author still needed to create a storyline for the illustrator to follow! Mine! is a fun little story about sharing. (Or not.) Toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy seeing what happens when someone yells, “Mine!”

Good Dog, Carl
CarlWritten and illustrated by Alexandra Day

Good Dog, Carl was one of our girls’ favorite books. Nana Mel had this and several other “Carl” books (there are sequels!) in her book bin, and the girls read them over and over and over! In this story, Mama is heading out the door, and says “Look after the baby, Carl. I’ll be back shortly.” And Carl, a big gentle Rottweiler, does exactly that. Baby climbs out of his crib onto Carl’s back, and the adventure begins! Of course, none of us would actually leave our little ones in the care of the family dog, but the story sure is fun!

Written and illustrated by David Weisner

Tuesday, by David Weisner, is another fun almost-wordless book. The story was actually inspired by a magazine cover that Weisner did for Cricket Magazine in 1979… Evidently folks were so intrigued by the illustration of frogs floating on lily pads that David Weisner finally wrote a story to go along with it in 1992! The story begins with “Tuesday evening, around eight,” and takes the reader through the night, only occasionally documenting the time. this fun book will appeal to elementary age kids, who will be old enough to see the subtle humor and the hint at the end of the book as to what happens “Next Tuesday, 7:58 P.M.”

photo 5

photo 4

photo 6

photo 7


The Arrival
ArrivalWritten and illustrated by Shaun Tan

The Arrival is an incredible wordless book written for ages 12 and up. I can personally attest to the fact that even adults are fascinated by it! Shaun Tan’s sepia-colored pencil drawings are intriguing… Their mixture of fantasy and reality give the reader a hint of what it must feel like to immigrate to a culture completely different from your own. The story progresses from the feelings of leaving everything that is familiar, to the experiences of strange new places, and then finally to reuniting with loved ones. I think it would be a great addition to learning about Ellis Island!

As you can see, wordless books are fun for any age!

Do you have a favorite?

Attempting a Comeback… And Read-Aloud Day #13!


The past few months have been rather eventful.

I think I may have typed that sentence several times before on this blog.

But seriously.

Two new grandbabies.
That makes FIVE total !!!!!

(So far!)

Two weeks in California.

A very busy and very sweet little fella living with us.

Finishing up the downstairs house remodel.
(I almost have a finished studio again!!!)

Definitely qualifies as eventful…
…Awesomely Wonderful Events!!!

I’ve been hoping to pick back up the 31 Days of Reading Aloud
series, and hopefully finish it before next October. Just in case I
decide to try this month-long blogging challenge one more time!



Day 13… Alphabet Books!

One of my favorite types of picture books are those that teach the ABC’s!

Especially those with rhythm and rhyme!
I think I could quote this entire book…
“Big A, Little a. What begins with A?
Aunt Annie’s alligator, A – a – A”

photo 4

A new favorite…
“Skit skat skoodle doot,
Flip flop flee…
…I’ll beat you to the top of the coconut tree!”

photo 6

I also love Alphabet books that are
written around a specific subject…
Like this one that takes little folks on a
journey around Colonial Williamsburg!

photo 5

Next time you’re in a bookstore or at the library,
check out the fun variety of Alphabet books!

Maybe I’ll eventually get this one finished…


Do you have any favorites?

Day #12 – Books that Inspire Creativity

Feeling creative?

Or not so much?

Below are some new picture books that help kids get in an artsy mood!

Mouse Paint is a  fun little book that teaches primary and secondary colors…
…Three white mice have a grand time splashing about in paint!


And a little more color fun for the older kids…
The Day the Crayons Quit is a book of protest…The crayons are fed up with
their normal jobs and are mad at each other, so they write letters
to a little boy named Duncan, telling him all their woes.


The Dot is another book with a bit of attitude…
Vashti is having a bad case of artist’s block, and in frustration makes a
angry jab at her paper, creating a dot in the center of the page.
She discovers that The Dot can be a beginning of a great work of art!


And for those of us who have kids that get Very Upset when making a mistake…
Beautiful Oops! gives lots of ideas to turn a mess up into something beautiful!


And… Though not necessarily about being creative, Press Here
will get your kids creatively involved in the reading process…


Day #11 – Cute Critters

Who were your favorite personified picture book characters?

Personification is a popular character development method used in children’s picture books. It’s fun to imagine animals that can talk, walk around in people clothes, and who sometimes act up or get themselves into a bit of a fix. One of the benefits of reading books about animal characters is that we can discuss their behavior and attitudes, the mischief they get into, and how they solve their problems with just enough “distance” so that it doesn’t feel like it’s pointed directly at any behavior or situation that might be cropping up in real life. These cute critters can give our little people examples of friendship, leadership, sharing, obeying, curiosity, and much more. Definitely worth including in our read-aloud repertoire!

Just a few that you’ll love introducing your kids to…










Day # 10 – Picture Books that Rhyme

Did you ever get the feeling There’s a Wocket in your Pocket?

If so, I’ll bet you grew up reading Dr. Suess!

Hubby and I both loved Dr. Suess books when we were little. Hubby absolutely loved Green Eggs and Ham… Mom-Mom Frey must have read that book several thousand times! My favorites were And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? When I was little, these wonderful books arrived in the mail at our house, two or three at a time, via the Dr. Suess and His Friends Book Club. So, when the sun didn’t shine and it was too wet to play, there were lots of fun, whimsical rhyming books to read!

Besides being super fun to read aloud,
did you know that Dr. Suess books,
as well as other rhyming books,
can help your child learn to read?!?

Hearing lots of rhyming words… whether it’s by reading Dr. Suess books or chanting Mother Goose poems… can help establish pre-reading skills for your little folks. Rhyming helps kids develop auditory discrimination so they can distinguish those tiny little differences in sounds of letters and words. Rhyming helps them understand what a “syllable” is. Rhyming helps kids recognize word families, such as cat, hat, mat, and pat. And it helps them learn to spell using those word families or patterns of letters.

Plus, rhyming can be downright silly and fun.

I mean, who doesn’t want to Hop on Pop?


Make sure you have some Dr. Suess books in your home library!


Day #9 – Bible Friends

There’s a small stack of books in our home that have been around quite a while.


They belonged to my brother and me when we were little.

These books are definitely favorites around here. Reading these stories over and over again as a little girl made the people of the Bible so familiar. David, Esther, Samuel, Daniel, Josiah… and especially the Lord… felt like friends I had known forever.


The illustrations were realistic and beautiful, and God’s people were courageous.

Queen Esther was one of my heroines…
“For such a time as this” is such an amazing thought.


I loved reminiscing over these storybooks from my childhood…
and then as I flipped through to the back pages, I saw tell-tale signs
that these books had been part of our daughters’ childhoods as well…


…The girls played “Library” with them!


What were your favorite Bible story books as a child?

Day #8 – And the ladies…

Decided not to worry that the “Day” matches the “Date”
in this year’s 31 Days of  Reading Aloud Project!

Guilt for being late now officially deleted.


Who could do a blog series about children’s picture books and not mention two Very Special Ladies? While the guys we talked about in the last post were a bit stylized and modern, these two ladies are decidedly old-fashioned. The first is old-fashioned because of when she lived and worked… The second completely by choice.

Beatrix Potter is known for being one of the very first female author/illustrators in the world of children’s picture books. When we think of Miss Potter, she seems to be the epitome of “old-fashioned,” but in reality, she was quite the progressive! Though she was born into English society, she did not want to follow the path of marriage for wealth or title, but instead wanted to marry for love and live a simple life in the countryside. Miss Potter had made up stories and painted pictures since she was a little girl, and as a young woman she decided to have one of her stories published. She was turned down by several publishing houses who thought her “bunny book” would never be successful, but finally her little book was chosen for publication by Warne Publishing. Unlike most authors of her day, Beatrix was very involved in the production of her books for children, from choosing a small size that was just right for little ones’ hands, to personally approving the colors used in duplicating her illustrations. Her first little book proved to be unbelievably successful…


Miss Potter lived quite an interesting life, and if you’d like to know more about her,
take a look at this list of books.
You can also watch this wonderfully sweet movie.

You’ll need a hankie.

You’ll also want to read aloud all Miss Potter’s sweet stories to your little folks…


Tasha Tudor was born almost half a century after Beatrix Potter. Tasha was born into Boston society, but she also wanted to live an old-fashioned lifestyle… and she did. Like Miss Potter, Tasha persisted on having her first book published even though editors turned her down. She became known for her sweet, softly colored watercolor illustrations, which were often surrounded by elaborately detailed borders. Her first book was published in 1938, and thus began a 70 year career in illustration…


Tasha also lived a life that has intrigued many people all over the world.
This movie is a wonderful introduction to her lifestyle.

Warning: You may decide to raise goats and chickens after watching it.

We did.

Needless to say, Tasha is my Very Favorite Children’s Book Author and Illustrator…

…Guess how excited I was to find out we share them same birthday!!!

Reading aloud favorites by Tasha?


… and also Corgiville Fair and Corgiville Christmas!

Day #7 – Just a few of the guys…

Whoops… a day late!


Today I thought we’d take a look at a few of the most
well-known male picture book author/illustrators…
…Maurice Sendak, Tomie DePaola, and Eric Carle!

Maurice Sendak is probably most well-known for this…
WildThingsWhere the Wild Things Are
… The story of a little boy who got in trouble, was sent to his room,
and sailed off to land full of wild and wonderful creatures…
“Let the wild rumpus begin!”

In our family, however, Mr. Sendak is most famous for this little set of stories…
Sendak1The Nutshell Library…
Alligators All Around: An Alphabet
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue
One Was Johnny: A Counting Book
Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months

Grammy and Grampy have a tiny vintage set of these bold little stories by Sendak… And they were read out loud Every. Single. Time. we visited. Sometimes more than once. I can hear Grammy’s voice… “Sipping once, sipping twice, sipping chicken soup with rice…” The illustrations in these books remind me of old world woodcuts, while the “Wild Things” illustrations are the stuff of dreams. (The kind of dreams you have if you eat spicy things for dinner!) Sendak’s art is folky, fanciful, and very stylized, and his stories center around precocious little kids that misbehave… and often get eaten up as a result. As a mom, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Sendak’s books at first, but soon realized there’s a bit of reverse psychology in them!

Another well-known author/illustrator is Tomie dePaola…


Tomie dePaola has written and illustrated oodles of books… over 200! He’s well known for European folk tales and Native American legends, but our favorites are his autobiographical stories. Tom is about his special relationship with his grandfather. (Somehow a story about chopped-off chicken feet makes a great kids’ book!) Another favorite of our is…

NanaNana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs

We were partial to this one because we had several generations of Nana’s in our family. Nana Anne (Who our youngest daughter Kate blogged about inner 31 Day Project) found this at a yard sale and brought it home. She explained to the girls that one day SHE would be Nana upstairs. It’s a slightly sad story, but also a very sweet one. And probably our very favorite book by Tomie…

ArtLessonThe Art Lesson

The Art Lesson is the story of young Tomie wanting to be an artist since he was a very little boy. Our oldest daughter, Jordan, loved this book so much that she wrote a letter in first grade to Mr. dePaola… and he wrote back! Talk about encouraging a little kid! Tomie’s style is also very stylized and easily recognizable.

The last guy we’ll talk about today is Eric Carle, who began his career
in children’s book illustration by doing pictures for a book by Bill Martin, Jr….
Brown BearBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Carle did a few more books with Bill Martin, Jr., but he also quickly began producing books that he wrote and illustrated himself. One of his most well-known books for children is…

CaterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a fun book for little folks in which a small caterpillar eats his way through the week (and the pages!) and grows bigger each day. Eric Carle produced many concept books that teach counting, the days of the week, insect sounds, parts of the body, and much more. But what is really special about Eric’s books is the WAY he illustrates them… with collage. Look a little closer at an illustration…


Each piece of his collage illustration is created from paper that he painted to add texture to the artwork.


Pretty neat, huh?

Making paint-textured papers and creating collages from them
would be a fun way to explore Carle’s illustration style, don’t you think?


…A Someday Field Trip…

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Hoping to get there some day!!!

Day #6 – Picture Books

My FAVORITE type of children’s literature!

bunniesFrom A Tale for Easter by Tasha Tudor

Seriously… Picture books hit some kind of deep down place in me.
Just of hint of sentiment in the story and I’m all slobbery.

harvestFrom Harvest Home by Jane Yolen
Illustrations by Greg Shed

Which can get some pretty odd looks from those being read to.


So what ARE picture books?

That question seems somewhat self-explanatory, but just because a book has pictures in it, doesn’t make it a “picture book.” Many books have illustrations here and there throughout the text, such as chapter books with several pictures per chapter, or a storybook with an elaborate illustration for each story. Picture books, however, have a much stronger connection between the text and illustrations. Often, the text is very sparse… sometimes only a few words per page. The average picture book has less than 1000 words in the entire book. What the text leaves to the imagination, the illustrations… on nearly every page… clarify for the reader. You really can’t “read” a picture book without looking at the pictures, because much of the detail is in the artwork. Some picture books have no words at all… but we’ll get to them later!

ColorRoughsColor Roughs for Zero and One by Jeff Byington

The collaboration between author/editor and illustrator is very unique, and varies from book to book. Some authors have no say in the style of illustration that will be used for their manuscript, as a publishing house chooses the best illustrator for the job. Some authors give very detailed instructions about who will illustrate their book and how it will be done. I think the best picture books are the result of a good relationship between author and illustrator… Where the writer gives some basic suggestions and trusts the artist’s skill… and where the artist submits ideas back to the writer to see if they’re on the same page. (Pun intended.)

NumberCharactersZero and One Character Development

Picture books offer a great opportunity for some beginning “Art Appreciation” discussions with your kids! Help them really look at the illustrations by pointing out details as you read the story. Discuss the mood of the pictures… Is it a bright,  sunny day or a stormy, windy night? Are the illustrations flat and stylistic or three-dimensional and realistic? Can you tell what medium the artist used? What about getting out some of the same stuff to make their own pictures? Can you find other books illustrated by the same artist?

pupincupFrom Hop on Pop by Dr. Suess

Picture books also give you a chance to teach inference skills they will need later on as they learn to read. Can they guess how the character is feeling by the illustrations, even if the text doesn’t tell you? Does the picture give you a clue about what will happen when you turn the page? (“Page turn” is a BIG DEAL in picture books!) Does anything in the illustration refer to other stories or books your child might recognize?

3BearsFrom Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Clement Hurd

We’ll spend this week looking at some well-known picture book artists…

AmeliaFrom The Amelia Bedelia Treasury by Peggy Parish
Illustrated by Fritz Siebel & Barbara Siebel Thomas

…Who are your favorites?