Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ping and Pong

adapted and illustrated by David McPhail 1994

This is a wondrously funny rendition of a short poem by Dennis Lee called "Peter Ping and Patrick Pong".  We've actually come across it before in a collection of poems, but David McPhail's interpretation brings it to hilarious life.  

It's a case of switched at birth between a boy and a bear.  The joke is that no one seems to notice and as Peter and Patrick grow up they become enemies and then the best of friends.  Dennis Lee's original poem is at the end as well as his thoughts on McPhail's creative treatment of it.  A really fun book to read.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sky Tree

Thomas Locker 2001

Science and Art are a beautiful combination.  This book goes through the seasons experienced through a tree.  Thomas Locker's painting are used to ask the reader questions about nature and art.    

Other books by Thomas Locker:

Friday, September 19, 2014


The scientist does not study nature because it is useful.  He studies it because he delights in it because it is beautiful.
-Jules Henri Poincare (1854-1912)

Although we had a busy summer this year, we still managed some days spent at the creek.  We brought along our nets and 'nature kit' with magnifying glass, identifying guides (bugs, birds, and mushrooms), specimen jars, nature journal and various other collecting tools.  A few times we brought along some of our friends.  Mostly the kids just played in the water, explored along the paths, and tried to catch fish with their nets.  One afternoon Henry found a snake under a rock by the water's edge.  We admired him for a while before he slithered off across the water with his head held high.   

I like to bring along this book from 1936.  It's a bit technical, but we've used it to learn a little more about some of the creatures we found.
Field Book of Ponds and Streams
Ann Haven Morgan 1936

I picked up Sharing Nature with Children at the thrift store last spring and it quickly became one of my favorite books for teaching.  For all my homeschooling friends out there, you absolutely must get your hands on this book.  I even had visions of using it to lead a "Science lesson" for a group of kids this summer!  (I'm still open to the idea if anyone is interested).

Joseph Cornell 1998

Each lesson is a unique and creative way for children to experience nature.  For example, one lesson is titled "Meet a Tree".  Children are blindfolded and led to find and explore a tree trunk with their hands and other senses.  Then when the blind folds are taken off, they must try to find "their" tree again.  Some of the lessons are simply to lie quietly on the forest floor, observing the sounds and smells and feelings of the nature around you.  I LOVE encouraging children to learn this way.  

Saying goodbye to Summer

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bing Bang Boing

The other day when Charlotte came home we sat out on the back step with our after-school-snack and this very silly book of poems.  Some were so funny I had to call Madeleine out to hear them too.  They are in the same vein as Shel Silverstein, sharp, witty, a little bit irreverent, and playful.  They're accompanied by illustrations so Charlotte picked out the ones she wanted me to read based on the pictures.

Most of them are short and sweet and I'll probably copy a few to put as notes in the kids' lunches.

Douglas Florian 1996

Saturday, September 13, 2014

From a Railway Carriage

In keeping with the train theme, here's a splendid poem by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Robert Louis Stevenson
illustrated by Llewellyn Thomas 1993

What a glorious way to describe racing along on a train and the sights that pass by "in the wink of an eye".  The illustrations show a little girl peering out of the carriage window and all that she sees- a child, a tramp, a cart run away in the road, each a glimpse and gone forever.

Friday, September 5, 2014

An Engine's Story

Somewhere in Illinois there is a magnificent train museum.  Not the kind of train museum filled with scale models, oh no.  This museum is filled with large old locomotives, collections of trolly cars, dining and sleeper cars you can walk through and the most beautiful industrial designed machines.  We visited this place and I was quite impressed- and I'm not even "into" trains!  I particularly liked the smooth, rounded art deco styled engines from the 1930's-1950's.  What a golden age of mechanical design!   

Look at this beauty!

Here is a simple little book with the best vintage train pictures.  Published in 1928 I'm pretty sure we saw this very same engine at the museum.  The text is straightforward and describes how a train runs and all the parts and people working on it.  It was originally a school book (a Social Science Reader).  Really I just love the illustrations.

An Engine's Story
Helen S. Read
illustrated by Eleanor Lee 1928

Children playing "train".