phd mama

from diapers to deconstruction


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Here Be Dragons

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Both of my children adore stories about mythical creatures; it’s part of their inheritance, right along with their dimples. Few such beasts are as impressive and breathtaking as dragons, and the list here showcases those creatures’ cunning as well as their sillier sides. These stories cross cultures to show different perspectives on dragons, who don’t always breathe fire and sometimes intertwine with saints’ tales. I will note that, despite my four-year-old’s love of dragons, I put few films on this list because of the intense images that so many of those movies contain. We stuck mostly to text, instead, where we relied on our imaginations, aided by timeless tales and exquisite illustrations, to bring these beasts to life.

  1. Day of the Dragon King by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  2. Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  3. The Dragons Are Singing Tonight by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis
  4. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri
  5. The Dragon Snatcher by M. P. Robertson
  6. The Egg by M. P. Robertson
  7. Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light
  8. How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head by Bill Peet
  9. Watch How to Train Your Dragon
  10. Hush, Little Dragon by Boni Ashburn and Kelly Murphy
  11. Jin Jin the Dragon by Grace Chang and Chong Chang
  12. King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bentley and Helen Oxenbury
  13. The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola
  14. Me and My Dragon by David Biedrzycki
  15. Merlin and the Dragons by Jane Yolen and Li Ming
  16. No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons) by Jean Pendziwol and Martine Gourbault
  17. Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el and Tim Bowers
  18. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko
  19. The Popcorn Dragon by Jane Thayer and Lisa McGue
  20. Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hyman
  21. The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash and Lynn Munsinger
  22. There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent
  23. Waking Dragons by Jane Yolen and Derek Anderson
  24. Where’s the Dragon? by Richard Hook and Jason Hook


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The Bees’ Reads

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While a severe bee allergy in our family prevented us from visiting a hive, we wanted to learn more about these amazing pollinators. From the sources below, we learned about their jobs and habits, as well as how their roles change throughout their lives. We studied bees dancing and took more notice of these essential creatures as they fly across our yard and garden. With National Pollinator Week approaching, I’m grateful for the knowledge we’ve gained about bees, the important role they play in our ecosystem, and the chance to spread the word!

  1. Are You a Bee? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
  2. Bee Dance by Rick Churstowski
  3. Bee & Me by Elle J. McGuiness and Heather Brown
  4. Bees! By Elizabeth Winchester
  5. The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco
  6. Watch The Cat in the Hat Knows a lot about That: Things with Wings
  7. Watch Insect by DK Eyewitness
  8. Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber and Brian Velock
  9. The Honey Makers by Gail Gibbons
  10. In the Trees, Honey Bees by Lori Mortensen and Cris Arbo
  11. The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci
  12. The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen
  13. National Geographic’s Little Kids First Big Book of Bugs by Catherine D. Hughes
  14. Investigate Pollinator Partnership
  15. Investigate Pollinators from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  16. Show Me the Honey By Tish Rabe and Christopher Moroney
  17. These Bees Count! by Alison Formento and Sarah Snow
  18. What If There Were No Bees? A Book About the Grassland Ecosystem by Suzanne Slade and Carol Schwartz

 


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Plant Reads, No Green Thumb Required

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By now the bunnies have eaten most of our kale; clearly, we do not have a rabbit-proof fence. But even the process of failing to garden teaches us a lot about gardening. In addition to reading and watching the items on this list, we’ve spent a lot of time in the dirt, befriending the worms and dropping in seeds with a hope and a prayer. It’s clear to my children that my father has a green thumb and I do not, yet we’re persevering with patience. We made terrariums to observe the water cycle and started some of our seedlings safely indoors. These resources helped us appreciate the process of gardening and understand the earth as the source of our food. And, hey, there’s still hope for the squash….

  1. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
  2. Watch DK Eyewitness Plant
  3. From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
  4. How a Seed Grows by Helene Jordan and Loretta Krupinski
  5. Jack and the Beanstalk by Paul Galdone
  6. The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds: A Book about How Living Things Grow by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen
  7. Oh Say Can You Seed? All About Flowering Plants by Bonnie Worth and Aristides Ruiz
  8. The Plant Hunters by Anita Silvey
  9. Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
  10. A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
  11. Seed to Plant by Kristin Baird Rattini
  12. Watch Dinosaur Train’s Tiny’s Garden
  13. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
  14. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal


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A Sap for a Story

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After years of trying to coordinate a trip to one of our local maple syrup houses, my family finally made it this year to an event for NY’s Maple Weekend. I expected an afternoon of tromping through snow and tapping trees, but our experience was much sleeker and more sophisticated than that (you can read about that visit here). We decided to extend our field trip with large bottles of maple syrup and lots of library books about the history and process of sugaring. This list reflects the old-fashioned methods I’d imagined as well as more modern processes, and, of course, some stories that are just about sticky fun. These books aren’t quite as delicious as syrup-soaked pancakes, but they’re all good reads.

  1. From Maple Tree to Syrup by Melanie Mitchell
  2. At Grandpa’s Sugar Bush by Margaret Carney and Janet Wilson
  3. If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond
  4. Maple Moon by Connie Brummel Crook
  5. The Maple Syrup Book by Marilyn Linton
  6. Maple Syrup Season by Ann Purmell
  7. From Maple Trees to Maple Syrup by Kristin Thoennes Keller
  8. The Missing Maple Syrup Sap Mystery: Or, How Maple Syrup Is Made by Gail Gibbons
  9. Sugar on Snow by Nan Parson Rossiter
  10. Sugar Snow by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Doris Ettlinger
  11. Sugarbush Spring by Marsha Wilson Chall and Jim Daly
  12. Sugaring by Jessie Haas
  13. The Sugaring-Off Party by Jonathan London and Gilles Pelletier
  14. Sugaring Time by Kathryn Lasky and Chrisopher Knight
  15. A Tree for All Seasons by Robin Bernard


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From Sea to Shining Sea: The U.S.A.

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To complement our unit on New York, we looked more broadly at the United States, too. The goal of this list was to provide an overview of the geography of the fifty states and a brief introduction to how the states got started. There are so many directions we can explore from this list, but my purpose here was to give my girls a sweeping view of our country so we can dig into the details later, from sea to shining sea.

  1. The 50 States by Gabrielle Balkan and Sol Linero
  2. Celebrate the 50 States by Loreen Leedy
  3. Complete Melissa and Doug’s Wooden Fifty States Puzzle (pictured)
  4. Exploration and Conquest: The Americas after Columbus (1500-1620) by Betsy Maestro and Giulio Maestro
  5. Greetings from the 50 States: How They Got Their Names by Sheila Keenan and Selina Alko
  6. Home: A Journey Through America by Thomas Locker
  7. The New Americans: Colonial Times (1620-1689) by Betsy Maestro and Giulio Maestro
  8. The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller
  9. The Scrambled States of America Talent Show by Laurie Keller
  10. Watch Scholastic’s The Scrambled States of America
  11. What Is the Statue of Liberty? by Joan Holub and John Hinderliter
  12. What Was Ellis Island? by Patricia Brennan Demuth and David Groff
  13. The United States of America: A State-by-State Guide by Millie Miller and Cyndi Nelson
  14. United Tweets of America: 50 State Birds by Hudson Talbott
  15. Listen to Wee Sing America

 

 


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New York, New York: A Helluva State

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I’ve lived in New York for nearly a decade now, though I’ve never been to New York City during that time. I know…I know. I’m not exactly a city girl. This list includes the glamorous, bustling Big Apple, but, like my experience, it showcases the rest of this great state, too. From history to politics to classics in American literature to landmark environmental movements, this list illustrates the richness of New York. And while I haven’t taken my girls to Times Square…yet, they’re just as excited about the big city as they are about Niagara Falls and the rolling farmland closer to home. I hope you enjoy this list, and I hope it helps you see the Empire State in a new way, too.

  1. Blizzard! by Jim Murphy
  2. Celebrating New York by Marion Dane Bauer and C.B. Canga
  3. Christmas in New York City: Adventures of Bella and Harry by Lisa Manzione and Kristine Lucco
  4. The Christmas Tugboat: How the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Came to New York City by George Matteson, Adele Ursone, and James E. Ransome
  5. Color Crayola’s New York shape and flag
  6. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden and Garth Williams
  7. E is for Empire: A New York State Alphabet by Ann E. Burg and Maureen K. Brookfield
  8. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  9. Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman
  10. Good Night, New York City by Adam Gamble and Joe Veno
  11. Good Night, New York State by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper
  12. Historic Houses of New York State by A.G. Smith
  13. Hudson by Janice Weaver and David Craig
  14. In New York by Marc Brown
  15. The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift and Lynd Ward
  16. Make Your Mark, Franklin Roosevelt by Judith St. George and Britt Spencer
  17. Mirette & Bellini Cross Niagara Falls by Emily Arnold McCully
  18. New York: The Empire State by Margery Facklam, Peggy Thomas, and Jon Messer
  19. New York, New York! The Big Apple from A-Z by Laura Krauss Melmed and Frané Lessac
  20. Old Penn Station by William Low
  21. Rip Van Winkle’s Return by Eric A. Kimmel and Leonard Everett Fisher
  22. River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River by Hudson Talbott
  23. Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson and James Ransome
  24. This is New York by M. Sasek
  25. A Walk in New York by Salvatore Rubbino
  26. What Is the Statue of Liberty? by Joan Holub and John Hinderliter
  27. What Was Ellis Island? by Patricia Brennan Demuth and David Groff
  28. Who Was Eleanor Roosevelt? by Gare Thompson and Elizabeth Wolf
  29. Who Was Franklin Roosevelt? by Margaret Frith and John O’Brien

 


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It’s Electric!

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Our unit study on electricity included experiments, reference books, fiction, and scientific biographies. We looked at amazing moments in the history of science and marveled at the ways that electricity transforms our lives. My elder daughter especially loved playing with the Snap Circuits, and these resources changed the way we all appreciate and understand the electricity that flows through our home. We attended a local library program on Squishy Circuits where we learned about conductivity. And, of course, we discussed electrical safety (no kite flying in thunderstorms for us!). I hope this list of resources charges you up just as much for studying electricity!

  1. Watch The Animated Hero Classics: Benjamin Franklin
  2. Batteries, Bulbs, and Wires by David Glover
  3. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer, and Elizabeth Zunon
  4. Charged Up: The Story of Electricity by Jacqui Bailey and Matthew Lilly
  5. Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch and Oliver Dominguez
  6. Energy Makes Things Happen by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Paul Meisel
  7. DK’s First Science Encyclopedia
  8. How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning by Rosalyn Schanzer
  9. Jackrabbit McCabe and the Electric Telegraph by Lucy Margaret Rozier and Leo Espinosa
  10. The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen
  11. My Light by Molly Bang
  12. Oscar and the Bird: A Book about Electricity by Geoff Waring
  13. Watch Popular Mechanics for Kids: Lightning and Other Forces of Nature
  14. Watch Disney’s Safety Smart Science with Bill Nye the Science Guy: Electricity
  15. Watch Disney’s The Science of Disney Imagineering: Electricity
  16. Experiment with Snap Circuits
  17. Switch On, Switch Off by Melvin Berger and Carolyn Croll
  18. Thomas Edison by Barbara Kramer
  19. Who Was Ben Franklin? by Dennis Brindell Fradin and John O’Brien
  20. Who Was Thomas Alva Edison? by Margaret Frith and John O’Brien
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