Sundays with Gage – Gerald McDermott

IMG_0062Gage is reading at grade level, but it is still a big struggle for him.  As most second graders are reading chapter books, Gage is finally comfortable reading the grade level picture books.  In the past I’ve tried to push him, but now I just try to find things that will make him enjoy the story and know that progression will come when he’s ready.  I found this at a book sale and included it in his yearly advent tree (Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest).  We liked it so much that we checked out the ones they have in this series of trickster tales at the library.

Gerald wrote and illustrated these folktales and says, “I celebrate the comic nature of the trickster as troublemaker, resourceful champion, and sometimes fool.”  Raven takes place in the Pacific Northwest, Zomo in Africa, Coyote in the Southwest, Jabuti in the African Rain Forest and my favorite Monkey is from India.  There are a few others in the series as well along with other books about myths and legends.  I’m going to enjoy finding them all.  The stories are multilayered and give us something to discuss and the illustrations are colorful and gorgeous.

If you see these when you’re looking for kids books make sure to take a look.

Although I tend to stress about the slower progress of his reading, Gage never needs our help with math and tested in the 98 percentile in the state.  Guess he gets those genes from his dad 🙂








Sundays with Gage – Steamboat School

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.

ssSteamboat 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 🙂


Sundays with Gage – Martin Luther King Jr.

One of the picture books in Gage’s Christmas advent tree was Martin’s Big Words:The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier.  It is a gorgeous book, this picture of the cover doesn’t do it justice.  It’s oversized and has won many well-deserved awards.

Jason read the book to Gage (now 6-still can’t believe it) first and I remember Gage asking a lot of questions about him getting killed at the end.  Not a lot of books prepare a child for this sort of ending.

The second time I sat down to read it with him a few days ago and before we even sat down he was telling me how King did good things. I told him yes, Martin Luther King changed the world (something we talk about often with different people) and even before I got the book opened he asked me, “How old was he when he knew?”  “Knew what?” “That he wanted to change the world.”  My heart melted.  It is never too early to talk to kids about grand ideas or big dreams!  We find out in the book that the seeds were planted when he was Gage’s age.

A beautiful book and starting place for young kids to learn about a civil rights icon.  It led to great questions and a real interest to learn more.  For both of us.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr  img_9740

Traveling the States with Gage – Indiana and Arizona

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.

fpoExploring the States:Arizona, the Grand Canyon State

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.


  1. 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.IMG_3832IMG_3836IMG_3843

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.IMG_3899IMG_3903IMG_3905

5. Kay sent me this great book and it’s an Arizona spin on the Three Little Pigs.  fpoThe 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.

fpoExploring the States:Indiana, the Hoosier State

I found myself very uninspired by Indiana when we did this state so we didn’t do as much as I would have liked.

  1. Traced the state map, marked the capital and wrote Indiana.
  2. Colored the state flag.
  3. Drew lots of racetracks.  IMG_3036
  4. Watched the movie Cars.IMG_3066
Yes, I know, lame.

Keep sending me ideas for your state – especially book ideas!

Our Michigan activities. Ohio activities. Pennsylvania activities. West Virginia activities.

The Giant of Seville by Dan Andreasen

Giant of Seville: A The Giant of Seville

32 pages, published 2007

Dan Andreasen

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.

from Goodreads

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!

kid konnection newBooking Mama hosts Kid Konnection every Saturday if you are interested in checking out other posts about kids books.


Gift idea- The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories


The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's StoriesThe 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.IMG_1483[1] 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.

Gage’s Picks

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 BearJust 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!

LocomotiveLocomotive 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!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?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

HatchHatch 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 TrainMr. 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.



Gage’s Picks

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! Here We Go!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 StationWe 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 HamGreen 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!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.

Red HenThe 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 BearJust 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!

Sundays with Gage – to the circus

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.

IMG_6435Then we moved to Daddy’s lap for awhile.IMG_6441And then we checked out the big clownIMG_6456All 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.

The True Story of Ten Dogs: Stay

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.

Sundays with Gage – Loving Elephant and Piggie

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? (An Elephant and Piggie Book)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.

snake2   snake1

Should I Share My Ice Cream? (An Elephant and Piggie Book)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.

ice cream1   IMG_5665   IMG_5666

I'm a Frog! (Elephant and Piggie Series)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! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)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!