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The Perfect Orange: A Tale from Ethiopia
By Frank Araujo
In this charming folktale from Ethiopia, a young girl finds a perfect orange and wants to give it to the ruler of her land. On her journey to the great ruler, she is stopped by the crafty and jealous hyena, who tries to trick her out of the orange. She pays him no heed, however, and continues on her journey. Upon seeing her gift and the generosity of her heart, the ruler wants to give her a gift in return, which she refuses. When she leaves, he has his courtier follow her with a generous gift. As the girl passes the hyena again, he sees that she has been well paid for her humble gift. He decides that he will give the ruler a great gift in hopes of receiving an even greater reward. But as the ruler is able to discern the heart of the giver, the hyena ends up with a surprise.
This hardcover book, which is also a PBS Storytime book, is beautifully illustrated with watercolor pictures on every page. Amharic vocabulary (the language of Ethiopia) are scattered throughout the story with pronunciation guides and a glossary at the end of the book. The story would make a wonderful supplement for a geography study of Africa, and the tale itself is a delightful allegory of how God looks upon our gifts to Him based on the attitude of our heart, not on the earthly value of the gift itself.
Any family would enjoy reading this story together and learning more about the culture of Ethiopia. It would make an especially good resource for families who have adopted children from Ethiopia.
Product review by Kim Kargbo, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2010
Link Across America: A Story of the Historic Lincoln Highway
By Mary Elizabeth Anderson
Link Across America is a different kind of history book. This narrative starts at Seedling Mile School with a teacher and her excited students awaiting a visit from road rally participants. The students learn that there will be photographers and reporters attending who will cover the event for the newspaper. Why? Because the school is located near and named for one of the "seedling miles" of the historic Lincoln Highway.
Antique cars arrive, and their drivers talk to the children, answering questions and sharing experiences. Mr. Boomer, a member of the Lincoln Highway Association, recounts the history of transportation in general, the importance of President Lincoln, and the highway's history in particular.
Describing how the highway was constructed covered a broad range of topics, including how they figured out how wide to make the road, what materials were used and how they were purchased, the actual process and the role of horse-powered equipment, and how concrete was made. Other interesting trivia included Burma-Shave signs and the still-standing mile markers, brick road sections, and original bridges.
The back of the hard-covered book includes more information on the Burma-Shave jingles; lots of photographs, both modern-day and from the days of the original construction in the early 1900s; a U.S. map detailing the original route of the highway; a listing of the cities, towns, and other points of interest along the route; and contact information for the Lincoln Highway Association.
This book, aimed at elementary students, ties in a lot of different subjects in a convenient story form, making it a good jumping-off point for class discussions, assignments and projects. Besides history, there are tie-ins to science, technology, geography, economics, civics, and government. It can be read aloud (by teacher or pupil) or enjoyed by the student alone. The way it is divided up into sections would make reading homework easy to assign.
Pros: The well-illustrated story form of the book will keep students of all ages interested. It is not a dry textbook, but rather it invites the children to become part of the story, almost part of the class! The sections are short, which makes them easily digestible and memorable. The additional information in the back makes it a more substantial resource for a greater range of ages, allowing for a continued discussion and/or projects to make the material really come alive.
Cons: Link Across America is definitely aimed at elementary students. While that is not a criticism, it's good to know the limits and usefulness of this resource.
I was excited to receive and then read Link Across America. It's the kind of thing that keeps history fun and relevant. I am sure it will be read many times in our home--as part of "formal" school and just for pleasure.
Product review by Krystin Corneilson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2010
Night Sounds (English) and Los Sonidos de la Noche (Spanish) versions
By Lois G. Grambling
Night Sounds is a 40-page paperback children's book. I received a copy in English and one in Spanish. This was exciting to me because my girls are learning Spanish this year, and it will be great to have a Spanish version for them to read. The story is about the sounds one hears while in bed at night. The book makes a nice bedtime story because it is very soothing and matter-of-fact about all the different sounds you might hear while lying in your bed waiting for sleep. A fun aspect of the book is that it is all in black and white and shades of gray, just like at night when your light is off and all is in shadows.
I recommend this book and also recommend the practice of reading bedtime stories to your children. The time for doing this is way too short. Night Sounds is a great book to use during this lovely evening ritual.
Product review by Christine Hindle, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2011
Nicky Jones and the Roaring Rhinos
Siblings, sports, competition, and surprise--all of these are themes in the easily accessible book Nicky Jones and the Roaring Rhinos. With fun artwork picturing the delight of family, the fun of football, and the unity of working as a team, this catchy little book will readily engage early readers, both boys and girls, up to the third-grade reading level. It would also be enjoyable for younger learners to listen to while following along with the amusing illustrations. A nicely sized book at a very affordable price of about $5, it provides a fun and simple introduction to chapter books.
Describing young Nicky's early days as a quarterback in the peewee football league, the story shares touching moments of familial support--particularly the love of siblings. It also tells of some unusual situations and tough decisions Nicky faces on the football team as well as the great joys that Nicky feels in the realms of both home and field. With football lingo sprinkled throughout and riveting game descriptions, this book will appeal to any football fan.
The surprise ending is meant to be the clincher, making the young reader laugh in astonishment: Nicky is not a boy, as the story seems to imply throughout, but a girl! She shows up to an end-of-season football banquet wearing a pink dress and pink shoes, much to the amazement of her coach and teammates. It comes across as a great joke, and many children would certainly find this to be quite entertaining.
On the basis of delightful illustrations, clever text, and high-quality publishing, however, this is a good purchase and a fun tale for young readers.
Product review by Melissa Cummings, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2011
Joy of Reading: One Family's Fun-Filled Guide to Reading Success
By Debbie Duncan
Joy of Reading: One Family's Fun-Filled Guide to Reading Success is a 202-page book that describes one family's journey of building a love of reading. Author Debbie Duncan shares her family's favorite books for all ages and stages of children. The mother of three school-age children, Duncan features more than 600 children's books as she shares her family's journey from picture book read-alouds to middle grade favorites to historical fiction and more. Duncan's passion for children's literature is evident throughout the book as she encourages parents to read aloud to their children. She gives many practical suggestions for books parents can provide to their children that will entertain, educate, and inspire. I expected the book to be more of a reference book but was pleasantly surprised to find that not only is it valuable as a reference, it is also a warm, personal, and inspiring read.
In reading the book, I was reminded of many of my own childhood favorites that I have not yet shared with my own children. Reading is already an important part of our family culture, but I was inspired to place even more focus on family read-aloud times. While I didn't agree with all of Duncan's suggestions, I did find many titles that I look forward to reading with my children. This is a secular book, and, as such, Christian families will want to evaluate suggestions to make sure they meet their individual family's standards and needs. The book was written in 1998, so titles written in the past 12+ years are not included. I very much enjoyed the book and will use suggestions from it to enhance the reading experiences of my children.
Product review by Whitney Dunahee, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2010
Buffalo Jones: The Man Who Saved America's Bison
By Carol A. Winn
Buffalo Jones is a nice hardback children's book of 59 pages. Illustrations are black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings. This is the story of a buffalo hunter who began to regret the dwindling of the buffalo herds and set out to preserve the buffalo. He discovered that adult buffalo in captivity died, so he captured some buffalo calves and took them home to Kansas to start his own herd. He is credited with saving the buffalo from extinction.
This book is on a mid-elementary reading level. When your children are ready for chapter books, they will be ready to read this one. The story was well told, and I found the details of the buffalo hunt fascinating and just a little comical. The buffalo hunter enede up using just about every article of clothing he was wearing to capture the buffalo calves.
I recommend this book for homeschoolers. It teaches a little history and a little science and is a great reading book. And it is interesting and fun. Boys and girls alike will enjoy this book.
Product review by Christine Hindle, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2011
When Molly Was in the Hospital: A Book for Brothers and Sisters of Hospitalized Children
By Debbie Duncan
When Molly Was in the Hospital is a lovely hardback picture book of about 31 pages. This book has lovely pencil drawings for illustrations. The story is about a little girl whose younger sister gets ill and has to go to the hospital for an operation. The story is very nicely done and would make an excellent resource to help reassure children who are going through a similar experience. My grandchildren have a cousin who has a lot of medical issues and has to have operations periodically, and this book will be very comforting when they go through this again.
This book would make a great addition to your home library or your church library. You could also donate it to your local children's hospital as a resource for their waiting room. My copy will become a permanent part of our home library.
Product review by Christine Hindle, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2011