phd mama

from diapers to deconstruction


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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


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Big Cats, Little Cats

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Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the lazy cats who lounge around our house all day are related to majestic beasts like lions and tigers. But big or little, these cat cousins have lots in common, as we learned from this list. Using fiction and non-fiction, we explored cats’ role in nature, history, and mythology, and learned just how much humans have always been intrigued by felines—no matter their size.

  1. Watch African Cats by Disney Nature
  2. Watch The Aristocats
  3. Amazing Cats by Eyewitness Junior
  4. Big Cats by Seymour Simon
  5. Big Cats by Jonathan Sheikih-Miller and Stephanie Turnbull
  6. Watch Cat by DK Eyewitness
  7. The Cat at Night by Dahlov Ipcar
  8. Cats by Jane Resnick
  9. Catwings by Ursula Le Guin
  10. City Cat by Kate Banks and Lauren Castillo
  11. Everything Big Cats by Elizabeth Carney
  12. Millions of Cats by Wanda Ga’g
  13. Outside and Inside Big Cats by Sandra Markle
  14. Puss in Boots by Paul Galdone
  15. Watch Puss in Boots by Dreamworks
  16. Six-Dinner Sid by Inga Moore
  17. Small Cats by Markus Kappeler
  18. The Tenth Good Thing about Barney by Judith Viorst and Erik Blegvad
  19. There Are Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz
  20. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
  21. Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander
  22. Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurrican Katrnia, Friendship, and Survival by Kirby Larson, Mary Nethery, and Jean Cassels
  23. Your Cat’s Wild Cousins by Hope Ryden
  24. Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein and Ed Young
  25. The Wild Side of Pet Cats by Jo Waters


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For the Love of Elephants

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When my younger daughter initiated a study of elephants (her favorite animal), I didn’t anticipate the emotional reading we had in store. Along with silly stories and scientific facts, we read stories of animal cruelty and elephants’ bravery. My daughter loves elephants even more now (and understands why we shouldn’t ride on them!), and her affection is tempered by a burgeoning respect for the dignity of all creatures, great and small. By looking at elephants across different cultures, throughout history, and from different disciplinary perspectives, we all came away with new-found appreciation for these impressive animals.

  1. Ballet of the Elephants by Leda Schubert and Robert Andrew Parker
  2. Big Beasts: Elephant by Stephanie Turnbull
  3. Watch Elephant by DK
  4. Elephants by Sydnie Meltzer Kleinhenz
  5. Elephants: An Affectionate Portrait by Jean Brody
  6. Elephants Can Paint, Too! by Katya Arnold
  7. Elephants of Africa by Gail Gibbons
  8. Elephants of the Tsunami by Jana Laiz and Tara Cafiero
  9. Elephants: From Trunk to Tail by Lucy Sackett Smith
  10. Endangered Elephants by Bobbie Kalman
  11. Elephant Prince: The Story of Ganesh by Amy Novesky and Belgin Wedman
  12. Support The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
  13. Mission: Elephant Rescue by Ashlee Brown Blewett and Daniel Raven-Ellison
  14. “Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” by Patricia Thomas and Wallace Tripp
  15. Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends by Carol Buckley


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A Literary Safari

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We selected a safari theme for my elder child’s nursery before she was born, and she received a pride’s worth of stuffed lions as gifts in her earliest months. Her interest in big cats has not abated since, and she recently started asking a lot of questions about predators and prey, relationships between species, and geographic locations for animal groups. Since she still loves to play lion, and indeed sometimes insists on travelling on all fours while we’re hiking, I thought I’d start by introducing her to some of the animals of Africa. The following list includes some of our favorites, a mixture of science-oriented nonfiction, poetry, fables, and counting stories—many accompanied by stunning photography. These books illustrate the way science, history, and art intertwine to weave a portrait, however partial, of the reciprocal influences of animals, people, and land. This is one more list I could continue to expand as we learn more and more about an entire continent’s worth of amazing creatures, but for now, I hope you enjoy our literary safari as much as we did.

African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways by Avis Harley and Deborah Noyes

African Animal Alphabet by Beverly and Dereck Joubert

African Animals by Caroline Arnold

African Cats by Disney Nature (a documentary film)

Baby Baboon by Mwenye Hadithi and Adrienne Kennaway

Baruti and the Chameleon by Lisa Brothers Arbisser and Glenn Darlington

Crafty Chameleon by Mwenye Hadithi and Adrienne Kennaway

The Elephant and the Scrub Forest by Dave Taylor

Giraffes by Catherine Ipcizade

Greedy Zebra by Mwenye Hadithi and Adrienne Kennaway

Hot Hippo by Mwenye Hadithi and Adrienne Kennaway

Hungry Hyena by Mwenye Hadithi and Adrienne Kennaway

Lazy Lion by Mwenye Hadithi and Adrienne Kennaway

Lions by Catherine Ipcizade

A Magic Skeleton Book: Safari Animal Adventure by Shaheen Bilgrami, Chantal Kees, and Chris Shields

Planet Earth: Animals of Africa by Lisa L. Ryan-Herndon

Safari by Robert Bateman

Safari, So Good: All about African Wildlife by Bonnie Worth, Aristides Ruiz, and Joe Mathieu

Simms Taback’s Safari Animals by Simms Taback

Tricky Tortoise by Mwenye Hadithi and Adrienne Kennaway

Water for One, Water for Everyone by Stephen Swinburne and Melinda Levine

We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns

A Zeal of Zebras: Animal Groups of an African Safari by Alex Kuskowski

Zebras by Catherine Ipcizade