Another Week of Kids Books

The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero by Amalia Hoffman, illustrated by Chiara Fedele, 40 pages, pub. 2019.

This story of Gino Bartali, two-time Tour de France champion is for the older elementary child. There is a lot of story, each page having a paragraph or more, but it takes it’s time with the fun stuff first to draw the reader in. From his childhood working to save money for a bike to his heroic efforts to save Jewish Italians during WWII, this was an inspiring story. We both loved it and Gage did share parts of the story with his dad, but because it was so long and at the end of a Friday afternoon of school, I only made him write one sentence about it.

Gage’s review…

Gino Bartoli helped save Jewish lives by delivering fake IDs on his bike.

Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo, 64 pages, pub. 2015.

“It takes Courage to Grow up & become Who you Really are.”

Gage’s review…

EE stands for Edward Estlin. He writes poetry. His first poem at age 3 was, “Oh my little birdie, Oh with his little toe, toe, toe.” He liked to make new words and squished others together. When he was 11 a teacher noticed how good he was. He started Harvard when he was 16 years old. After he moved to New York City we entered World War I and he became an ambulance driver (in the war). His first book was The Enormous Room. He didn’t follow writing rules.

Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream For Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier, 40 pages, published 2013.

Most reviews we might work on together, some are based on a series of questions he writes the answers to and some, like this, are what he comes up with himself. Can you tell he hates to write? We paired this book with this video of the author.

Gage’s review…

His dad knock knocked on his door and came onto the bed and sat down and the boy jumped in is arms. One day his dad didn’t knock and he was sad. A letter was on his desk and it said, dear son I will not knock knock on your door so you have to knock for yourself.

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, art by Hatem Aly, 36 pages, published 2019.

This is a Wonderbook that first reads the story aloud and then asks questions at the end. Gage’s review is the answers to those questions. I think this is a good book for the younger set. It’s an introduction to the hajib.

Gage’s review…

What did you like best about the book? the illustrations

Who was your favorite character and why? Asiya because she is strong when people make fun of her.

What was your favorite picture and why? I liked the cover page because of the detail.

Do you want to write a book one day? maybe

What would it be about? a fairy tale

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale retold by Verna Aardema, pictures by Leo and Diane Dillon, 32 pages, published 1975

This Caldecott Medal Winner was a hit with both of us. Gage still loves stories told from the animals point of view and this one was fun. Until the death, that hit me hard! For the record, mosquitoes love Gage and each bite swells up terribly. We went to the botanical garden this week and he came home with about a dozen bites all over. It was after we read this book and he’s made jokes about the mosquitoes since.

Gage’s review…

The iguana puts sticks in his ears because a mosquito was talking about nonsense, so he doesn’t answer the python. The python gets scared and hides in the rabbit hole. Mother Owl was sad because her owlet died and she wouldn’t wake the sun. King Lion called a meeting of the animals.

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell, 97 pages, published 2008.

We spent about a week reading this one. The book itself with the abundance of gorgeous illustrations is one worth buying for the bookshelves. We both loved it. And it’s a great introduction to Thor, Loki and Odin for newbies.

Gage’s review

Odd is a boy who ran away from his family. He went to his dad’s cabin. A fox led him to a bear that was trapped. The bear, an eagle and the fox went back to his cabin. He discovered they were gods when they started talking. They needed to go to Asgard because Thor’s hammer was stolen. Odd beat the Frost Giant so they were allowed in Asgard.

More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell, 100 pages, published 2001.

So, we’re not exactly horror experts here, but I liked the shortness of the stories so we read this over a few weeks, culminating with Gage writing his own scary story on the last day. The stories themselves were hit or miss for both of us and some of them were brutal. I had him choose his two favorites and he chose one in which the heads were chopped of two dead men and exchanged for the funeral, and the other was about a butcher who ground up people as the special ingredient in his sausage. Yeah. A good read for October if your older kid can handle it.

A week full of kids books!

So, so behind here. The good news is that I finally got Gage a reading and writing teacher for 4 hours a week (with the option to do more if it works out), so that means that I not only get 4 hours of my own time, but also the planning time for at least those 4 hours 🙂 The tutor is covered by an Ohio scholarship.

Let’s catch you up with some of our fun books this week.

The Great Kapok Tree

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry, 40 pages, published in 2000.

Gage’s review (edited by mom)

The Amazon rain forest is a hot place. The canopy is the sunny place that touches the sky. The understory is the dark place. A man went into the rain forest and hit the giant kapok tree with his axe. He fell asleep and a snake came to him. Then the bee whispered in his ear. “all living things depend on one another.” Then a troupe of monkeys and three birds. According to the frog a ruined rain forest means ruined lives. The jaguar didn’t want him to cut down the trees because then he wouldn’t get his dinner. Humans need trees for air. Several ant-eaters, sloths, and finally a child from the Yanomama tribe came to the man and he woke up.

Does the man cut down the tree?

Vermeer by Nicole K. Orr, 32 pages, published 2017

A snapshot into Vermeer’s life via a fictional boy. There was enough of a story for interest, but also had lots of details too, including information about the paintings that were included in the book. This was a nice introductions for kids and Gage liked it. It led us easily to another book I purchased for this school year…

Start Exploring Masterpieces: A Fact Filled Coloring Book by Mary Martin and Steven Zorn, 120 pages, published 1990.

I love this coloring book and Gage has had fun with it too (you can see one of his ‘masterpieces’ in the next photo. There’s a story for each painting that talk about the painting and the artist and then the other page is for the kids to recreate the picture. Highly recommend when you want to introduce some of the big names in art. I think they could have done a bit better with the selection of artists (many artists had more than one painting) but I still love it. You don’t even have to be a kid to love it 🙂

Anna at the Art Museum by Hazel Hutchins, Gail Herbert, & Lil Crump, published 2018.

You can see that we used the Start Exploring Masterpieces book from yesterday. The Scream was the only one that was included in Anna at the Art Museum. The book was a little young for Gage, but I did like the artwork on each page and how there was info on all of the included art in the back.

Gage’s thoughts…

At first Anna didn’t like the art museum. She got into trouble. She saw herself in the paintings and then she liked the art museum.

(This is very simplistic, but true. Worth a look before a museum visit)

How the Sphinx Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland, 40 pages, published 2010.

We both loved this book. It told the story of the sphinx from why it got built, all of the people needed to get it built, and then how many and what people were involved to get it into the museum to be viewed by us.

Gage’s thoughts…

This is about all that the Sphinx went through just to get to the museum. My favorite part was that every page added another person who got it to the museum. It was repetitive and fun to read.

Ralph Masiello’s Ancient Egypt Drawing Book, 48 pages, published 2008.

After our visit with the Sphinx we looked through this book that gave step-by-step instructions on how to draw things from ancient Egypt. Gage drew both an anubis and pyramid and had a lot of fun doing it.

Kudos to both of these author/illustrators because they both commented on our Instagram post and thrilled the boy.

Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-Being by Thich Nhat Hanh, Plum Village, and Wietske Vriezen, 62 pages + DVD, published 2008

We started reading this book at the beginning of the month and it’s everything I hoped it would be. Information about mindfulness, a picture book portion for kids to better explain, the ten movements themselves, and then a bio on Thich Nhat Hanh. We will be doing the movements at the beginning of our school day for the rest of the month. The DVD was fantastic, even having Thich Nhat Hanh himself showing the movements.

Gage’s thoughts…

His friends call Thich Nhat Hanh “Thay”. He’s a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. Thay talked with the US government to stop the Vietnam War. Vietnam wouldn’t let him come home. One way people can develop peace in themselves is by just sitting quietly and breathing. This is called meditation. I’d recommend this to people who like yoga.

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went From the Football Field to the Art Gallery by Sandra Neil Wallace and Bryan Collier, 48 pages, published 2018

I loved this book so much and so did Gage. We enjoyed finding some YouTube videos of Barnes and his gallery work. I’m a fan of his and want to buy one of his prints. Gage’s thoughts, while incomplete, give you the idea 🙂

Gage’s thoughts…

There was a boy who liked to make art. His mom forced him onto a football team. Twenty-six college teams wanted him. He loved art so he paid his coach money. He became a football painter and got the salary of a football player.

Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting and Ronald Himler, 32 pages, published 1991.

Although dated, especially since it takes place in a 1990s airport, this is still worth a read with your kid. The realities of being homeless will encourage conversation, understanding, and empathy. We spend the better part of an hour on this and surrounding research.

Gage’s thoughts…

It wouldn’t feel good to be homeless. It’s sad. I don’t know what I can do to help the homeless. Maybe we (the country) could give people money or make houses cheaper. I think Andrew and his father will get their own place someday because they both save money.

Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up by Sally M Walker and Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

Earth Verse

Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up. Written by Sally M Walker and illustrated by William Grill. Published 2018, 48 pages.

Before we read the book we watched this video with Kwame Alexander on writing haiku. Gage loved his energy and after we finished the book came back to the computer to watch 3 or 4 more of his videos about poetry. Kwame for the homeschool win!

It’s filled with a haiku on each page about some aspect of the earth. The last dozen pages are packed full of information about what the haiku has introduced. This book was fine, but I was hoping for more.

Gage’s thoughts…

It was interesting. I liked the information pages in the back that explained everything the best. The illustrations were pretty good. I would recommend to people who like to see how the earth works.

My favorite haiku

nestled in sandstone,

Maiasaura shields her young

fossil family

Gage also read this with it and it provided a bit more fun.

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Our book of the day was The Undefeated written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Published 2019, 40 pages.

After the success of Kwame yesterday I chose this book today (FYI- I went through many lists for about a week, reserving anything that looked interesting at the library. I have all the books I need to finish up this month and then some, but choose the books on a weekly basis, sometimes switching them up when something like this happens)

I love this book so much. The poem, written by Kwame is perfectly highlighted by the gorgeous illustrations. This might be one I actually buy to have in our library. I read the book to Gage, explaining the things that Kwame was referring to the second time around and then we looked at the list in the back of the book to get more detail about a few of the things and then we watched two Kwame videos where he read the book/poem himself. Then we were able to talk about the way the poem was transformed when read by the poet.

Gage’s thoughts…

This is about black lives matter and it celebrates black people. I liked watching Kwame read it best because he read it with such force.

For our reading time Gage read me Imagine, one I hadn’t put in my stacks because it didn’t look like it had enough to delve into, but after he read it we discovered it was the true story of Juan Felipe Herrera, US Poet Laureate from 2015-2017. It was about growing up in the migrant farms and finally going to school and beyond. This was well worth the read.

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Thank You, Mr. Falker

Thank You, Mr. Falker, written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. 40 pages, published 1998.

This book is the autobiographical story of the Polacco and her horrible school experiences before finally learning to read in the 5th grade. It was hard to read about the bullying, but the message of being different and everyone learning on their own timeline will resonate with a lot of kids. And let me give a shout out to Mr. Falker. May all students have such a teacher in their lives! I’d recommend this book for everyone, although the 3-5 grade set is probably the target. It touches on so many painful childhood experiences and will enable you to have honest conversations with your kids.

Gage’s thoughts…

This book is a memoir.

In kindergarten Trisha loved to draw but when she looked at a page to read she saw wiggling shapes. Numbers looked like a stack of wobbly blocks ready to fall.

Her grandma told her being different is the miracle of life and everyone is different. Her grandparents died.

It took five days to move from Michigan to California. The kids at her new school called her dummy, stupid, and ugly. In the 5th grade Mr. Falker came. When kids laughed at her he said, “Stop! Are all of you so perfect that you can look at another person and find fault with her?” The only time she was really happy was when she was around Mr. Falker. Mr. Falker kind of knew she couldn’t read, but not really. He told her, “you fooled many good teachers.”

In three to four months she could read a paragraph. She was happy, so very happy to read.

The Wall by Eve Bunting

The Wall. Written by Eve Bunting. Illustrated by Ronald Himler. 32 pages, published 1992.

This is a fictional boy’s first person account of visiting the Vietnam War Memorial with his dad. The emotion portrayed was palpable and reading it slow let it all sink in. Not filled with facts or details but the heaviness of what war leaves behind.

For us, because we’d been talking about protests, this was the perfect time to read this one. We watched a few videos of actual war protests and how important they were. Here’s a short one I found to be helpful for kids. I found it interesting that the reporter called for more law and order until the police came for him.

Gage’s thoughts…

This book is sad because is shows people who died.

My connection to the wall is that my Grandpa fought in the war, but luckily he didn’t die.

I liked this book and recommend it to anyone who likes to learn.

Sometimes People March by Tessa Allen and Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice

Sometimes People March

Sometimes People March, written and illustrated by Tessa Allen, 32 pages, published 2020

I thought this was a nice, easy book to introduce kids to the many reasons people protest and how. There is a double page spread of signs from different marches. The last few pages focus on how a march is started by one person who talks to another and another until there are enough of them to march together and lets kids know that person could be them. I also appreciated the index in the back with the specific marches each picture represented.

Gage’s thoughts…

There are many reason people march. People protest for clean water, freedom, the Earth and people they love. We also protest against litter. The most important thing I would march for is clean water

Something Happened in Our Town

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice. Written by Michael Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard. Illustrated by Jennifer Zivion. 40 pages, published 2018

This book focuses on two families, one white, one black, in the aftermath of the police killing a black man. Not only is this a great way to see the perspective of different races to the tragedy, but also generations. Since we have talked about police shootings and protesting at different points over the summer we spent more time talking about how important it was to see a situation from a point of view that you couldn’t really understand completely, but one you could still respect and sympathize with. There were a lot of resource pages in the back for parents and teachers. The illustrations were gorgeous.

Gage’s thoughts…

What’s the point of the story?

You can change the world by doing little things. Black and white should be treated fairly, equally. They still aren’t though.

Who would you recommend this book to?

People who think everyone should be treated the same.

Have you ever seen racism?

Not that I remember in person, no.

Does that mean it doesn’t happen?


Favorite part of the book?

When Emma and Josh became friends with Omad.

At the end what happened between Emma and Josh?

They worked together for the same purpose, to make a new friend.

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh

Gage has been obsessed with shipwrecks and sinking for a while. I thought the Titanic class would be good (and it was!), but it has ushered in a YouTube video obsession with all things sinking. Check out Cardboardia and know that he has watched these videos more than one time. So, I chose this book hoping it would help move his attention to something else. And I banned Cardboardia for the weekend to save my sanity.

Gage’s thoughts…

Marie Tharp loved to draw and figure out how the world worked. She used sounding, that is measuring the sound that goes to the bottom of the sea and bounces back, to confirm continental drift, the world land is splitting apart. She was treated differently because she was a woman (this was 1948) and was told she couldn’t go on a research ship because women were bad luck.

Thankfully, we live in different times and Gage didn’t understand the bias of women not being treated as equally smart as men. Every time it comes up in a book he makes sure to tell me how smart I am 😉

Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman and 20 Fun Facts About Stonehenge by Michael Sabatino

I’ll be honest, I have no idea what’s going on with this new WordPress editor, so I’m trying this Instagram block for fun. You can see Gage with the last two books. We can always be friends on IG too, come on over and say hi.

Anyway, since this is a trial post to see how this works I’ll keep it short.

Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Divya Srinivasan

Gage’s thoughts…

Cinnamon lives in a castle and she cannot see or speak. She’s surrounded my jungle and mountains. There were prizes of a parrot, picture of an aunt and mango groves if you could get her to talk. The tiger shows up. He says he eats humans. The tiger was going to make Cinnamon speak. First, he tried pain, then terror, and then love. He got her to speak. He got the prizes but gave them to the village and he and Cinnamon walked into the jungle.

20 Fun Facts About Stonehenge by Michael Sabatino

Gage’s thoughts…

Stonehenge is between 5,000 and 3,500 years old. It was built so it lines up with the sun on the longest and shortest days of the year. One of the wild theories is that aliens from other world visited Earth and helped make it. They found skeletons buried there so it may have been a graveyard. The smaller stones came from a quarry in Pont Saeson, Wales (160 miles away). I would love to visit Stonehenge because it looks col and I want to study the rocks.

He also read

The Prehistoric Planet (Galaxy Zack, #3)
Around the Clock
How to Read a Book
In the Night Kitchen

The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

IMG_5708 (2)The Seed of Compassion.  Illustrated by Bao Luu.  40 pages.  Published 2020.

We read a Bible worksheet every morning to start our lessons and we follow it up with Mindful Movements from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book for kids.  This was a nice book to read right after that to solidify positive thoughts to start our day.  The Dalai Lama talks about his mother and how she taught compassion from the heart in the short years he lived with her before being chosen as the next Dalai Lama at four years old.  I love when books open up discussions that let me know what’s going on in that big brain of his and this one did that.

Gage’s thoughts… 

This is a memoir.

The Dalai Lama is the head of Buddhism.

Compassion is caring for one another.

This passage sums up the book…

“But only humans have the ability, with discipline and effort, to train the mind.  It’s what makes us different from all other animals.  It is our superpower.  And it is where the seed of compassion thrives.”  pages 32

I’d recommend this book because he’s a good person.


He also read to me Love which was pretty sweet.


The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

IMG_E5693 The Secret Cave.  40 pages. Published 2010.

We’re studying ancient history and took this tour (watch it, so cool!) of Lascaux last week.  I was excited to find a book about the discovery of this cave, by four boys and a dog, no less!  I liked the cave map, the illustrations and the last two pages of the real story best.  The story in the book was okay, but could have better appealed to kids, I think.

Gage’s thoughts…

Main characters- Jacques, Jojo, Simon, and Marcel

This book is fiction based on real people.

Four boys find a cave under a fallen tree.  They went in to search for gold.  They found lots of cave art.  Marcel wanted to keep it a secret, but it wasn’t a secret for long.  Too many kids knew so they had to tell their teacher.  The teacher was amazed.  Their discovery was put in newspapers all around the world.

My favorite part is the illustrations.

I would recommend this book to people who like history.  I’m glad I read this book because I learned a lot.


We also read Life in the Stone Age: DK Readers L2 and Isle of You.  Gage appreciates me having younger books like the Isle of You around when he has to read to me.  I don’t mind.  Surprisingly, he liked the whimsy of it and making an Isle of Gage is something going on our schedule this week 🙂