Did you think I meant that Gage went to steamboat school? Nah, but he did read a book that was inspired by the true story of the Freedom Floating School in 1847 Missouri.
Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Ron Husband
“I always thought being brave
was for grown-up heroes doing big, daring deeds.
But Mama says that sometimes courage
is just an ordinary boy like me
doing a small thing, as small as picking up a pencil.”
These opening words let me know that this book would reinforce much of what I’m trying to instill in Gage’s mind. Be brave, do the little things that can make big changes. When Gage is older and can hear that mama voice in his head I always want it encouraging him to be the best person he can be and to look for ways to make a positive change in the world. Sometimes I think I push him too much, but tonight he told me I was the best loving mother, (I’ve never heard him use the word loving before, yay!) so I must be doing okay.
The book is the story of Reverend John (Berry Meachum) who worked hard to free himself and then his family from slavery. He taught African-American children in the basement of his church until the state of Missouri made it illegal for him to continue teaching them to read and write. He found a way around that by building a steamboat in the Mississippi River where he could continue to teach children. Missouri law had no say in federal waters. What an ingenious way around the law!
So, the discussion about race was harder to discuss in this book than in the Martin Luther King Jr. book a few weeks ago. It is essentially about kids, like Gage, being told they didn’t have a right to learn. How can you explain something so hateful and ridiculous to a six-year-old? By his questions I know that he doesn’t really ‘get’ it and why should he, I guess. I’m not even sure I understand how people can be so full of hate and fear.
I loved the story and the illustrations enough that I’d like to buy this one to have as a part of Gage’s library. Highly recommend it. Thanks for the recommendation Jill 🙂
I had the best of intentions of working our way through many states this summer, but as the first days of school looms we have managed only two.
This was the first state that Gage chose himself and I have no idea why, but was happy to see him take an interest. We started by reading through the book and then I chose some 5-10 minute activities over the three days. My goal is really just two activities for each of the three days and then a book or two.
- Traced the state map, marked the capital and put on some stickers having to do with Arizona (thank you Jill!). Wrote Arizona.
2. Colored the state flag, state reptile (ridge nosed rattlesnake) and state flower (cactus blossom).
3. We made our own cactus blossom using this pin as an inspiration. We used a brown paper wine bag since it was brown and we could cut it to make it stand up. First we painted his hand green (he looked very Hulkish), then he used the dot paints to make the flowers. After the paint dried he added the ‘ouchies’, wrote his name at the bottom (any excuse to get him to practice), and he cut along the line I drew. Wha-la! a perfectly lovely cactus blossom.
4. Since the state coloring page included a snake we used this pin and made our own snakes. Here’s Gage making his. This activity is great for fine motor. First he cuts the strips, then he has to make a chain. He had to concentrate but he did it. We drew on eyes an a tongue and had snake fights.
5. Kay sent me this great book and it’s an Arizona spin on the Three Little Pigs. The Three Little Javelinas was PERFECT for learning about Arizona. Javelinas are sometimes called wild pigs, they are related to swine and hippopotamus and instead of them running from the Big Bad Wolf they are on the run from a coyote. The two brothers and one sister use traditional southwest things for their three houses; tumbleweed, sticks from inside a cactus (called saguaro ribs), and adobe bricks. Along the way you learn a few Spanish and Native American words and about how the traditional things are made or where they come from. The illustrations were wonderful and Gage loved it! So did I – thanks Kay! 32 pages and perfect for ages 3-7.
I found myself very uninspired by Indiana when we did this state so we didn’t do as much as I would have liked.
- Traced the state map, marked the capital and wrote Indiana.
- Colored the state flag.
- Drew lots of racetracks.
- Watched the movie Cars.
Keep sending me ideas for your state – especially book ideas!
32 pages, published 2007
In the 1870s, a circus giant named Captain Martin Van Buren Bates left the circus and set off to find a town where he and his wife (also a circus giant) could live in peace. Captain Bates happened on Seville, Ohio, a sleepy little town that charmed him from the moment he arrived and welcomed him with open arms.
This book is based on a true story set in a town not far from here. I met the author/illustrator at the Ohio Book Festival and while I was having him sign my book to Gage a few women came up and started talking about how their parents would tell them this story when they we young and even point out the giant’s house as they drove by. They seemed to agree that the house was no longer standing today. If you are interested in the real giant you can read more on Wikipedia for details or teaching supports check here.
Martin grew to be 7″11′ and 525 pounds and his wife, from what I found, was even taller. When they decided to retire from the circus, Martin took the train (a big fave with Gage) to find a new home for the super-sized couple and he found a welcoming town in northern Ohio. I loved this story about the man who did not fit social norms but was accepted anyway. The illustrations and quality of the book are top-notch. Some of the language might be challenging for younger kids but I think that’s a good thing. This is a great tall tale from a small town in my great state 🙂
So, this weekend I started doing some mini-lessons on the 50 States with Gage. Ohio was first so we focused on this book, but I’m looking for recommendations for my near future states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virgina). Let me know!
Booking Mama hosts Kid Konnection every Saturday if you are interested in checking out other posts about kids books.
The Beginner’s Bible. Illustrated by Kelly Pulley. Read with Gage in 2014.Published in 2005. 512 pages.
When I was pregnant my grandmother gave me this Bible at my shower and this is what she wrote. My grandmother had a habit of gifting Bibles signed by her and I have them all. They are my connection to her now that she is gone and I’m so thankful that Gage has this Bible to hold onto to remember the few years he was able to spend with her. So, that being said, if you are looking for a perfect and personal Christmas gift for a child or grandchild I can think of none better than a meaningful and timeless book. For me and my family that has been a Bible.
This book is broken up into very short chapters telling the many well-known stories of the Bible, each chapter a perfect length for small ones. We read one chapter every night before bed after his other picture books and he felt such a sense of accomplishment as the bookmark progressed through the book (don’t we all?). It’s a great starter Bible to familiarize young kids with most of the big stories. I think we’ll probably read it again starting in January.
We have a healthy bookshelf full of picture books and a large magazine holder full of library books. We read three books and a chapter in the Children’s Bible every night before bed. We read on and off during the day or for different activities, but we’ve set aside 10 minutes in the morning for Gage’s choice. I’m curious, given free reign and the instruction to only choose one book, what he will bring me every morning. This week he picked 4 library books and 2 from his own library.
Just Like Bossy Bear by David Horvath.
A repeat from last week. When we visited his class this week (school starts Monday) I told him he had to be a good example for the new kids in the class and he asked me, “Just like Bossy Bear?” Apparently this book can help bossy kids!
Locomotive by Brian Floca.
This Caldecott Medal Winner, Sibert Honor Book, and New York Times bestseller is a beautiful book about the history of the railroad. The illustrations are outstanding, the facts are interesting and the big bold type keeps younger ones entranced. This is the second time we’ve checked this out of the library and because I think it will age well (Gage will still enjoy it in a few years) I may go ahead and buy it. At 3, Gage doesn’t want to read every page, but he listens through at least the first half and then we just talk about the pictures the rest of the way. 64 pages.
Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now by Dr. Seuss
I admit that there are a few Seuss books that I don’t really ‘get’ but Gage seems to like all the ones we’ve read. In this one he likes the crunk-car and shows everyone who comes to the house how cool a car with two smokestacks and feet for wheels can be. 36 pages
Are You My Mother? by PD Eastman
This one belonged to me as a kid and I’ve read it to Gage off and on over the years. I was surprised this was his choice since he hasn’t shown any favorability toward it. A baby bird loses his mother and finds his way home with the help of a Snort. Our new game is that I pretend to be a Snort, lift him the air, set him down in his home and cuddle him as his mother. He even made me do it in the waiting room of the Cleveland Clinic yesterday and I went ahead and made a fool of myself because I am happy that he wants me to be his Snort 😉 64 pages
Hatch by Katie Cox.
We cull Gage’s library every 3-6 months and donate books that he no longer reads. He chooses, not me, and this one always made the cut for whatever reason. I think it’s too young for him, but like this week sometimes he pulls it out to read. Every page has description of an animal and then on the opposite pages you have to crack open the egg to see if you were right. The baby owl is both cute and ugly! 16 pages and perfect for younger kids.
Mr. Putter and Tabby Take the Train by Cynthia Rylant
I’d like to say that Gage loves this story because of the cat or the dog or the illustrations, but we al know it is because of the old steamie train on the front. The story is long and has chapters and hewill pretend to listen to all of the non-train parts, but I don’t buy it. Really intended for older kids from 6-9 it has 44 pages and part of a Mr. Putter and Tabby series.
We have a healthy bookshelf full of picture books and a large magazine holder full of library books. We read three books and a chapter in the Children’s Bible every night before bed. We read on and off during the day or for different activities, but this week I set aside 10 minutes in the morning where Gage had to choose one book on his own for us to read together. This is a skill he needs to work on! The first few days he walked over to where all of his books were and had a hard time deciding where to start looking in the mass of books, but he worked it out and ended up choosing five from the library and one from his own books. Guess there’s no need to buy lots of books!
Richard Scarry’s Hop Aboard. There are so many images and descriptions of various vehicles that I made him choose one on each of the 48 pages for us to focus on, until we got to the trains – we read all of those, of course! Fun and educational. Lots of information for a pre-schooler.
We Work at the Fire Station. A basic book with big photographs and few words. I liked the questions they asked on a few of the pages and the visual quiz at the end. I know there is a series of these and I’d like to get more. 24 pages.
Green Eggs and Ham. We’ve owned this since birth and I’ve tried to make it through many times over that last 3+ years but it is only in the last few weeks that he’s maintained interest to the end. It’s worth noting that his favorite part is the train that shows up halfway through. This is a fun one to read and I caught him ‘reading’ the last page at breakfast the next day. He said he would like to try green eggs and ham, LOL. Gage is a picky eater and I do think that this book is great for kids who are reluctant to try new foods. And it’s just fun 🙂 62 pages
Dewey:There’s a Cat in the Library. Based on the true story of Dewey, the library cat, this is a big hit with Gage, our resident cat lover. If the book has trains or cats then he is willing to take a look. The beautiful illustrations jump off the page on this one and I love the lesson of finding your place in the world. There are many different things going on in the book that go a little above Gage’s head, but this is the one that also generates the most discussion because he asks so many questions. 40 pages.
The Red Hen. Isn’t that cover great? The illustrations in the book are much of the same and lots of fun. This is a seemingly simple book of a classic tale, is a great one for asking questions at the end (how many characters were in the book? how many ingredients in the cake?) for recollection. The hen wanted to bake a cake and asked her three friends to help her at every turn but they said no, until it was time to eat the cake. The end made me laugh. I am surprised he likes this so much and when I asked what his favorite part is he answers. “The cake. I want to make one.” There is a cake recipe at the end.
Just Like Bossy Bear. When he brought this one over to me yesterday I had to stifle a laugh. I brought this home from the library because Gage is a Bossy Bear but we hadn’t read it yet. Bossy Bear realized that his BFF was starting to act like him and it wasn’t pretty so he changed his ways. Gage listened, but didn’t seem all that interested. Until he started saying Bossy Bear things in the bathroom and I wonder if the book had the opposite of the desired effect? 32 pages
I can’t wait to see what he chooses this week!
A few weeks ago we took Gage to his first circus. It was a small one, held in a local armory, and perfect for his first experience. Perfect because he didn’t last long, our $20 investment was worth the 30 minutes. I’m finding that he really doesn’t like big noisy crowds, well, at least when he is expected to sit and focus for any length of time. He’s only 3 so think we can give him a pass 😉 When we got to the circus we saw a boy who Gage knew and the boys lined up for front kneeling seats.
Then we moved to Daddy’s lap for awhile.And then we checked out the big clownAll in all a good first experience. He was able to see a monkey and miniature horse act, but we didn’t stay long enough for the dogs.
I tried to find some good circus books for him after and the one that he loves (and so do I) is Stay:The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean with photographs by KC Bailey abd Stephen Kazmierski. 40 pages. Perfect for preschoolers.
This is the story of Luciano Anastasini, born to generations of circus performers. He fell from the high wire and broke so many bones it took four operations to put him back together. He needed a new act if he wanted to continue performing and he found one. He rescued dogs that no one else wanted and worked with them until he had a show.
This book warmed my heart as it will any dog lover. The story, the bio of each dog, the overall theme of second chances left a smile on my face and a desire to see them in action.
Gage likes the beautiful photography of each dog and their circus act. He looks through it almost every day. I really can’t recommend this one enough.
I checked it out of the library and will be sad to take it back.
We’ve been enjoying some books from the Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems for the last several weeks. The illustrations and stories are easy to understand and full of things to talk about. They also lead to very simple activities that take little preparation. I would recommend all four of the ones we’ve been reading. They are especially good for beginning readers as the words are large, simple and repeated. I’ll list them in the order that Gage likes them best.
Can I Play Too? Ages 3-5. 57 pages
Themes- Frienship, Making friends, Thinking outside the box for solutions, Inclusion
Snake wants to play catch with Gerald and Piggie and embarrassment, sadness, and determination come into play.
I hope I’m not spoiling anything here by saying that Piggie’s solution to the no hands problem was using the snake as the ball. Jason and Gage used his blue snake to play catch. There wasn’t a lot of catching , but he tried and he had fun throwing.
Should I Share My Ice Cream? Ages 4-6. 64 pages
Themes- Friendship, Sharing, Doing the right thing.
Gerald buys an ice cream cone and before he eats it he wonders if he should share it with Piggie. As he goes back and forth on whether to share, the cone melts. Piggie saves the day.
So, this activity took less than 5 minutes of preparation, just long enough to cut and tape together a “cone” for the (dirty) “ice cream”. We were able to watch the melting process in action without the mess 🙂 It took over 3 hours to totally melt.
I’m a Frog! Ages 4-8. 64 pages
Themes- Pretend play
Piggie pretends to be a frog and Gerald doesn’t understand what’s going on until Piggie explains how he too can pretend to be something else.
The picture is terrible, but you get the idea. After reading the story we all took turns pretending to be other animals and then guessing what they were. He’s mid-jump.
Pigs Make Me Sneeze! Ages 3-5. 64 pages
Themes- Friendship, Getting sick
Gerald thinks he allergic to Piggie because he can’t stop sneezing around her and is relieved to know that he is only getting sick and they can still be friends.
No pics with this one because aside from pretending to sneeze and taking turns saying bless you we didn’t really do much.
I can’t wait to check out more of the Elephant & Piggie series!
I am a regular at our library. I do take Gage, but find it near impossible to actually shop for books so for personal time I tend to go before I pick him up from school about once a week. The limit for checkouts is 50. I am always very close to that – right now I have 49 items checked out. Books, audios, movies, play-a-aways, music cds…the majority are enjoyed by Gage. He loves books. We always have them on the table for before or after meal times and before bed. I brought home these three books weeks apart (our library will let you renew indefinitely as long as no one is waiting for it) and he loves them all.
Harry is read often in this house. At first I thought they might have too many words and be too long, but no worries he listens and looks the whole time. The illustrations are so great. They are bold and big and easy to follow.
We started with Harry the Dirty Dog. In this book Harry doesn’t like to take baths and runs away from home and after he’s had all the fun he can handle he gets tired and hungry and returns home, only his family doesn’t recognize him because he is so dirty. Gage may have initially fell in love because there is a train and any book with a train must be good. So cute and my personal favorite. It’s 32 pages and first published in 1956.
In No Roses for Harry he receives a sweater from grandma that he hates. He tries to ditch it but has no luck until a little birdy helps him. This one could be confusing at first, but after a few readings I think he started to get the concept of the sweater just being one long piece of wool. 32 pages and first published in 1958.
Harry and the Lady Next Door is the one I brought home this week and I haven’t warmed up to it yet, maybe part of it is the length, it’s 64 pages. It took two tries to get through the whole thing. Seriously, yesterday alone he wanted to read it at least 4 different times. I also think Harry is not very nice in this one, always trying to drown out the lady who sings too loudly next door, but it’s a teaching moment 🙂 This was published in 1960.
I know there’s at least one more Harry book. We’re sure to read it soon. These are classics. but I don’t remember reading these.
Did you read the Harry books growing up?
Gage has known his colors for a while, but when I saw this book at the library I thought he’d enjoy it. A World of Colors by Marie Houblon and published by National Geographic is one I can recommend enthusiastically to all kids from 2-5 or 6. Let me start with the photos – they are gorgeous, interesting and international. Each color has 4 pages and the text isn’t something the child will read by themselves, but the text makes this book interactive so it isn’t something they’d want to read by themselves anyway. For each color it asks that you look around and find something that color and because of that it would be fun to go around the house reading it in different rooms. Let me show you a few pages…
So sorry about the blurry pink page but I’m including it so you can get an idea of the photos. So after we read this I decided that tis might be a good way to start categorizing and practicing gluing abilities. So I let Gage choose a color in the morning at breakfast and over the course of the day I collected things that he could attach to a piece of construction paper. Next time we do something similar (and we will just with other categories) I’ll let him help with the scavenger hunt (but to be honest just the gluing part was all the time Gage wanted to spend on this activity, 5-10 minutes, so I’d break it up into two activities).
Today was our last day and we did green. Here’s how it went down…
Some days he would put everything I put out on there, other days he just chose a few. Today he told me he was done and I told him he had to add 3 more things. He chose 3 dinosaur stickers. When I asked him to point to his favorite thing he chose Kermit the frog.
I have a big plastic bin where I keep old torn up books and misc. craft supplies to use for projects just like this one. The book was the inspiration for this activity. So much fun 🙂