phd mama

from diapers to deconstruction


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Wabi Sabi: A Japanese List

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My younger daughter says her favorite thing about our unit study of Japan was the rice, providing further confirmation that we’re in it for the food. We did go out for Japanese food during this study, practicing with chopsticks and sampling sushi. My older daughter says she loved learning about all the different festivals and holidays in Japan, and these books certainly cover those topics as well. They also fell in love with Totoro in their introduction to anime. As you can see, this list does what I strive to do with all of our place-based unit studies: get a sense of the culture through history, folklore, fairy tales, contemporary accounts, food, music, crafts, and geography. This list showed us loyal animals, origami, wise rulers, everyday families, and, yes, rice. It’s the next best thing to travel!

  1. All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts and More by Willamarie Moore and Kazumi Wilds
  2. Chibi: A True Story from Japan by Barbara Brenner, Julia Takaya, and June Otani
  3. Cooking the Japanese Way by Reiko Weston
  4. Color Crayola’s Japanese Flag and Map
  5. The Culture and Crafts of Japan by Miriam Coleman
  6. Dodsworth in Tokyo by Tim Egan
  7. Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  8. The Emperor’s Plum Tree by Michelle Nikly and Elizabeth Shub
  9. Erika-San by Allen Say
  10. Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog by Pamela Turner and Yan Nascimbene
  11. I Live in Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi
  12. Watch Families of Japan
  13. The Funny Little Woman by Arlene Mosel and Blair Lent
  14. Japan by C.I.A.’s World Factbook
  15. Japan: Tradition, Culture, and Daily Life by Michael Centore
  16. Japanse Celebrations: Cherry Blossoms, Lanterns and Stars! by Betty Reynolds
  17. Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories by Florence Sakade and Yoshisuke Kurosaki
  18. Little Kunoichi: The Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida
  19. My First Book of Japanese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book by Michelle Haney Brown and Aya Padrón
  20. My Japan by Etsuko Watanabe
  21. Watch My Neighbor Totoro
  22. Night of the Ninjas by Mary Pope Osborne
  23. Ninjas and Samurai by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Bryce
  24. Make an Origami Crane
  25. Watch Ponyo
  26. The Real Princess Diaries by Grace Norwich
  27. Three Samurai Cats: A Story from Japan by Eric Kimmel and Mordicai Gerstein
  28. Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein and Ed Young
  29. The Way We Do It in Japan by Geneva Cobb IIjima and Paige Billin-Frye
  30. Tokyo Friends by Betty Reynolds


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The Shape of Things

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This list is geared toward my preschooler, to give her a foundation in some of the basic early learning concepts like shapes. See Ellen Booth Church’s “Why Colors and Shapes Matter” for the rationale behind emphasizing shapes in preschool education. I combined picture books about shapes with hands-on activities. While it’s a preschool list, my whole family enjoyed the tactile activities, though my younger daughter most enjoyed sorting the random bag of buttons I found in my sewing box. Though these are all fundamentals, I selected these books for the list because of their creative interpretations and presentations, often combining beautiful art and cultural awareness with learning about shapes. Shape recognition primes us to look at the world around us in a different way, and this list helped us do just that.

  1. City Shapes by Diana Murray and Bryan Collier
  2. Play with cookie cutters and play-dough
  3. Color Crayola’s Basic Shapes 1 and Basic Shapes 2
  4. I Spy Shapes in Art by Lucy Micklethwait
  5. My Very Frist Book of Shapes by Eric Carle
  6. Paris: A Book of Shapes by Ashley Evanson
  7. Make shapes with Learning Resource’s Pattern Block Activity Pack
  8. Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Thong and Grace Lin
  9. Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Parra
  10. Shape by Shape by Suse MacDonald
  11. The Shape Song Swingalong by Stevesongs and David Sim
  12. Sort colorful shaped buttons
  13. When a Line Bends…A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene and James Kaczman


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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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Water, Water Everywhere!

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This list combines our study of water, the water cycle, and oceans. After all, it’s all connected! A family vacation to the ocean (and our second trip to The Mystic Aquarium, which inspired this list on whales two years ago) prompted further study of the enchanting Atlantic. As much as I consider this a science unit, the art of the ocean is inescapable. The photographs, illustrations, and films showed us a world of wonder that is both essential to our survival and astoundingly beautiful.

  1. All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillatson
  2. Watch The Cat in the Hat Knows a lot about That: Ocean Commotion
  3. Watch The Cat in the Hat Knows a lot about That: Told from the Cold
  4. Watch Disneynature’s Oceans
  5. Down Comes the Rain by Franklyn Branley and James Graham Hale
  6. A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder by Walter Wick
  7. Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart
  8. Watch DK Eyewitness’s Ocean
  9. Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean by Arthur Dorros
  10. Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola
  11. Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today? All about Weather by Tish Rabe and Aristides Ruiz
  12. Magic School Bus Wet All Over: A Book about the Water Cycle by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen
  13. Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre
  14. Watch DK Eyewitness Seashore
  15. The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
  16. The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story by Neil Waldman
  17. Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman and Beckie Prange
  18. Water by John Woodward
  19. Water Dance by Thomas Locker
  20. What Makes an Ocean Wave? Questions and Answers about Oceans and Ocean Life by Melvin Berger, Gilda Berger, and John Rice
  21. Wish for Fish: All about Sea Creatures by Bonnie Worth and Aristides Ruiz
  22. Why Is the Sea Salty? And Other Questions about…Oceans by Benjamin Richmond

 

 


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Keep Calm and Read On

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For our latest literary adventure, we traveled to London—home to some of the greatest children’s literature of all time. From Paddington to Queen Victoria, from The Globe to Big Ben, from The Beatles to Mary Poppins, we canvased England’s capital city. Our selections span time periods and genres, and includes well-known characters as well as lovable new friends. As always in our travels, we immersed ourselves in the history and culture of our subject, taking on new characters to add to our repertoires, and finding our worldviews transformed in the process.

  1. The Adventures of Bella & Harry: Let’s Visit London by Lisa Manzione and Kristine Lucco
  2. Listen to The Beatles
  3. The Beatles by Mick Manning and Brita Granström
  4. The Beatles by Mike Venezia
  5. The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer, and Stacy Innerst
  6. Bed-knob and Broomstick by Mary Norton
  7. Watch Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  8. A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson and John Hendrix
  9. Charles Dickens: The Man Who Had Great Expectations by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema
  10. Charlotte in London by Joan MacPhail Knight and Melissa Sweet
  11. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Brett Helquist
  12. Read the CIA’s World Factbook about the United Kingdom
  13. Color Crayola’s flag and map of England
  14. Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo by Cassandre Maxwell
  15. A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time by Mary Pope Osborne
  16. Good Queen Bess: The Story of Elizabeth I of England by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema
  17. Katie in London by James Mayhew
  18. The Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  19. Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
  20. Watch Disney’s Mary Poppins
  21. Watch Disney’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol
  22. Paddington by Michael Bond
  23. Watch Paddington
  24. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  25. Watch Disney’s Peter Pan
  26. Popcorn at the Palace by Emily Arnold McCully
  27. A Possum’s Tail by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow
  28. Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan and Nancy Carpenter
  29. The Queen’s Progress: An Elizabethan Alphabet by Celeste Davidson Mannis and Bagram Ibatoulline
  30. Shakespeare’s Seasons by Miriam Weiner and Shannon Whitt
  31. Stage Fright on a Summer Night by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  32. Watch The Sword in the Stone
  33. This is London by M. Sasek
  34. Color Crayola’s flag and map of the United Kingdom
  35. A Walk in London by Salvatore Rubbino
  36. William Shakespeare & the Globe by Aliki
  37. Who Was Charles Dickens? by Pamela Pollock and Meg Belviso
  38. Who Was Queen Elizabeth? by June Eding and Nancy Harrison
  39. Who Was Queen Victoria? by Jim Gigliotti and Max Hergenrother
  40. Who Was William Shakespeare? by Celeste Davidson Mannis and John O’Brien
  41. Who Were the Beatles? by Geoff Edgers and Jeremey Tugeau


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¡Hola! Mexico

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Once more, food and parties inspired our most recent literary excursion. This time we traveled by book to Mexico, where my children delighted in the rich traditions of folklore and religion, the artists’ biographies, and the contemporary glimpses of our neighbors to the south. And, of course, we were all so pumped about the piñatas that we threw two parties just to keep the festivities alive. What we found in our perusal of Mexican stories holds true for all our literary explorations across the globe: each place and people group tells of a unique history and perspective that connects past to present. And, as always, it’s a privilege to step into these story worlds and see just a glimpse of another culture, to broaden our world and our mind with stories. To that, we can only say gracias!

  1. Watch The Book of Life
  2. Borreguita and the Coyote by Verna Aardema and Petra Mathers
  3. The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos and Rafael Lopez
  4. Color Crayola’s Mexican Flag and Map
  5. Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter
  6. Listen to De Colores and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children by José-Luis Orozco and Elisa Kleven
  7. Diego by Jeanette Winter and Jonah Winter
  8. Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh
  9. Elena’s Serenade by Campbell Geeslin and Ana Juan
  10. Erandi’s Braids by Antonio Hernández Madrigal and Tomie dePaola
  11. Watch Families of Mexico
  12. The Fisherman and the Turtle by Erica A. Kimmel and Martha Aviles
  13. Frida by Jonah Winter and Ana Juan
  14. Frida Kahlo: The Artist Who Painted Herself by Margaret Frith and Tomie dePaola
  15. José! Born to Dance by Susanna Reich and Raúl Colón
  16. Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales
  17. The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
  18. The Lizard and the Sun by Alma Flor Ada and Felipe Dávalos
  19. Mexico by CIA World Factbook
  20. Nacho and Lolita by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Claudi Rueda
  21. Off We Go to Mexico! An Adventure in the Sun by Laurie Krebs and Cristopher Corr
  22. Our Lady of Guadalupe by Felipe Dávalos and Francisco Serrano
  23. Pequeña the Burro by Jami Parkison and Itoko Maeno
  24. The Piñata Maker by George Ancona
  25. Listen to Putumayo Presents Mexico
  26. The Sad Night: The Story of an Aztec Victory and a Spanish Loss by Sally Schofer Mathews
  27. Soccer on Sunday by Mary Pope Osborne
  28. The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella Story by Penny Pollock and Ed Young
  29. Under the Lemon Moon by Edith Hope Fine and René King Moreno
  30. Watch Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
  31. What Can You Do with a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla and Magaly Morales
  32. Who Was Frida Kahlo? by Sarah Fabiny and Jerry Hoare


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Egyptian Treasures, Ancient and Modern

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In our latest literary journey, we traveled to Egypt, where we explored stories both ancient and modern. I wanted to show the nation’s rich history without crystalizing it in the past, so we combined stories of mythology with tales from the present. This list shows a similar geographic setting for both old and new, illustrating the way past, present, and future converse through stories.

  1. Cleopatra by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema
  2. Cry of the Benu Bird: An Egyptian Creation Story by C. Shana Greger
  3. The Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence Parry Heide, Judith Heide Cilliland, and Ted Lewin
  4. Egypt: CIA World Factbook
  5. The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo and Ruth Heller
  6. Color the Egyptian flag and map by Crayola
  7. Watch Families of Egypt
  8. Build a Great Pyramid by Crayola
  9. Hands around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya
  10. Magic Treehouse Fact Tracker #3: Mummies and Pyramids by Mary Pope Osborne, Will Osborne, and Sal Murdocca
  11. Mummies in the Morning by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  12. Mummies, Pyramids, and Pharaohs: A Book about Ancient Egypt by Gail Gibbons
  13. Pepi and the Secret Names by Jill Paton Walsh and Fiona French
  14. Rimonah of the Flashing Sword: A North African Tale by Eric A. Kimmel and Omar Rayyan
  15. The Tomb of the Boy King by John Frank and Tom Pohrt
  16. We’re Sailing down the Nile: A Journey through Egypt by Laurie Krebs and Anne Wilson