Thursday, February 28, 2013

Crafty Chloe

Meet Chloe:

Chloe isn't very good at sports.
Video games were never her thing.
And when she took dance lessons, she had the grace of a camel in roller skates.
What Chloe is very good at is making stuff . . . (DiPucchio)

What will Chloe give her dear friend Emma for her birthday?  Be sure to check out this endearing story to find out!  Crafty Chloe (c. 2012) by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Heather Ross is a new favorite here at ReadMeAStory. I'm talking about: we want sequels!!!

And if you can't get your hands on a copy of this darling book anytime soon, then make your own crafts at the author's blog:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Boy Naturalist

Okay folks, I've learned some new things reading the kids' books.  For one, did you know that John James Audubon disproved Aristotle's (and then current) scientific theory that birds don't fly underwater during winter . . . they migrate south.  Now it seems downright silly to even imagine that people used to believe this as truth.  But what is absolutely fascinating to my kids and me is that Audubon disproved the theory while he was a teen.  Not only that, he recognized and copied bird calls and songs when he wasn't even in the "double-digits."

The kids were amazed by other stories of Audubon's life.  In fact, we couldn't get enough of him.  We kept searching for more books and more stories.

If you'd like to read some stories of wanderlust and adventure, you must check out both the childhood and adult stories of John James Audubon.  And then after you've heard the tales of the talented artist / naturalist, check out the books with his very own, intricate bird illustrations.  This has been a delightful exploration week at ReadMeAStory!  I hope your family enjoys the biographies and illustrations as much as we have!

Here are some of our favorites:

Begin with The Boy Who Drew Birds: a story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (c. 2004), which Sweet beautifully illustrates herself, sometimes copying Audubon's field book, note-taking, sketching perspective.

Audubon: Painter of Birds in the Wild Frontier by Jennifer Armstrong and Jos. A Smith (c. 2003) presents three of our favorite WOW stories in Audubon's adulthood.  This book presents Audubon as more of a Daniel Boone frontiersman and explorer than the other books did.

You may also want to check out:
John Audubon: Young Naturalist by Miriam E Mason and Cathy Morrison (c. 2006) presents a great overview of Audubon's childhood and youth.  I would recommend this book for 2nd - 4th grade readers. Although, we did find the illustrations a little odd.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Farmer Boy

I’ve been reading Farmer Boy to the kids.  It begins in winter, which is fitting to begin reading it together in January.  Personally, Farmer Boy and Little House in the Big Woods are my favorite of all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series.  I’ll explain why shortly.

While I’ve been reading Farmer Boy aloud, I’ve gone back and read By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years to myself.  Folks, there’s a whole different perspective re-reading these stories as an adult!

The kids play this little game that they “invented” as we read books and stories: midway through the story or at the story’s end, they say, “I wanna be _________.”  And now, they quickly “call” whom they want to be before the other one “calls it.”  Funny isn’t it. Isn’t that how we all read books and stories, though?!  We read self-reflectively.  Occasionally, I get a “Momma, I do NOT want to be __________.”  So subversively, we’re interpreting positive and negative character traits through the characters we read.

So where am I going with this?  Well, Farmer Boy has always been my favorite because, instinctively, I would have much rather lived with the Wilder family on a New England farm than with the Ingalls family out in the middle of nowhere Kansas or nowhere South Dakota.  And after getting through The Long Winter (which could also be called the long, cold story), I’m wondering if I would rather be a lady’s maid on Downton Abbey, working those long, grueling hours, than be Laura Ingalls Wilder.  At least the lady’s maid could live in the warm “big house” without starving!

Don’t misunderstand me, though.  As a little girl, I absolutely LOVED reading all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s tales!  And now as an adult, I've delighted in re-reading them.  There is a new fascination and appreciation gained in re-reading her stories.  One thing that stands out is the remarkable way she remembers and retells a story for children.  And in retelling her husband’s story in Farmer Boy (and his “side” in The Long Winter, etc.), it became clear to me that we don’t share the oral stories of our own lives with our children enough.  I also questioned if we’re creating story-telling moments in our daily lives.  Let’s face it, we can’t create a book about: “Well, all I did today was play Pac-Man on Atari, and then when I was bored of that, I watched hours of MTV, and then I went to soccer practice, came home, ate, and went to bed.”  For as difficult and mundane as the Wilder’s lives were, they have incredible stories to share!

So my challenge to you, readers, is this: if you’re a young reader, pick up one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books (there are 9-11 to choose from) and read it.  If you’re an adult, pick up one of Wilder’s books and re-read it.  And please come back to and share with our readers about your experience reading these tales of life from a bygone era.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count!

I first heard about the bird count from Happy Homemaker UK in her post last year about the "Big Garden Birdwatch."  I so desired to do our own bird count but couldn't find information on it anywhere . . . that is . . . until . . . this year!  Those of us around here at ReadMeAStory cannot possibly wait until Friday, February 15, when the Great Backyard Bird Count begins.

So what's it all about?  
From Feb. 15 through Feb. 18, folks across the nation will be spending at least 15 min. (or longer) a day watching the birds in their own backyard.  We'll count, record, and report all the birds we see.

What's the point? Why?
(as copied exactly from

Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document and understand the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.
The longer these data are collected, the more meaningful they become in helping scientists investigate far-reaching questions, like these:

• How will the weather influence bird populations?

• Where are winter finches and other “irruptive” species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?

• How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?

• How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?

• What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
The Great Backyard Bird Count is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada and sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.

In other words:
We're participating in a science experiment by helping provide research and statistics for the National Audubon Society's various bird studies, including bird migratory patterns.  So by participating only 15 min. a day, we're contributing to legitimate research!

Some of our favorite birdwatching books around here at ReadMeAStory include:

COUNTING is for the Birds by Frank Mazzola, Jr. (c. 1997) covers several developmental skills all at once.  While teaching your child to count to twenty, Mazzola introduces rhyme, bird facts, number recognition, bird species identification, all while weaving together a hidden plotline.

The kids' very favorite bird identification guide is The Pocket Naturalist Guide: South Carolina Birds: An Introduction to Familiar Species (State Nature Guides) [Pamphlet] by James Kavanagh (c. 2002).  Read more about this resource on my post about The Pocket Naturalist Guides

Our Yard is Full of Birds (c.1992) by the mother daughter team Anne & Lizzy Rockwell tells a boy's story of bird watching while identifying various species of birds.  Lizzy Rockwell's watercolor and pencil illustrations beautifully capture each bird's unique traits.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


So are you ready for some more of P. D. Eastman's I CAN READ book titles?

In Snow (c. 1962), P. D. Eastman teamed up with Roy McKie in writing and illustrating a perfect beginner I CAN READ book for the winter season.  Thankfully, this is one of those titles that has experienced copyright renewal, so I recently found our copy at Marshalls for just a fraction of the price.

And as you know, our kids much prefer P.D. Eastman to Dr. Seuss, and I still haven't figured out why.  I don't know if it's the illustrations or if they can better picture themselves in the story or if the plot is more predictable for an early reader, but Eastman's books are the ones they keep returning to again and again.

Let me share with you a few of our favorite illustrations from Snow:


Find "February" in A Child's Calendar, a collection of twelve of John Updike's poems that describes a child's journey through the seasons from January through December  (c. 1965).  Caldecott award winning artist Trina Schart Hyman illustrated the collection (c. 1999).