phd mama

from diapers to deconstruction

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O, Pioneers!


There’s a romantic nostalgia attached to the Little House stories, one that I carried with me from my own childhood. Reading them to my daughters has been both delightful and eye-opening, as I can see from an adult perspective (not to mention a specialist in American literature and history) the idealism in the stories that glosses over ordinary struggles and major social issues. For this unit, we built our own wagons (out of cardboard boxes and blocks), listened obsessively to the music inspired by the stories, dressed and baked according to character, and talked a lot about what’s changed and what’s stayed the same. I might not regard the pioneers with quite the same rose-colored glasses now, but I still recognize the way the West captivates readers and tells one kind of American story.

  1. Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson and Nancy Carpenter
  2. Aunt Clara Brown: Official Pioneer by Linda Lowery and Janice Lee Porter
  3. Buffalo before Breakfast by Mary Pope Osborne
  4. The Buffalo Storm by Katherine Applegate and Jan Ormerod
  5. Daily Life in a Covered Wagon by Paul Erickson
  6. Dandelions by Eve Bunting and Greg Shed
  7. Dust Devil by Anne Isaacs and Paul O. Zelinksy
  8. Listen to Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder
  9. I Have Heard of a Land by Joyce Carol Thomas and Floyd Cooper
  10. Johnny Appleseed: A Poem by Reeve Lindbergh and Kathy Jakobsen
  11. Johnny Appleseed: My Story by David L. Harrison and Mike Wohnoutka
  12. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook by Eugenia Garson, Garth Williams, and Herbert Haufrecht
  13. The Little House Collection by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Garth Williams
  14. The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker and Garth Williams
  15. My First Little House Books Collection by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  16. My Little House Crafts Book by Carolyn Strom Collins, Christina Wyss Erkisson, and Mary Collier
  17. My Little House Christmas Crafts Book by Mary Collier and Deborah Maze
  18. My Little House Cookbook by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Amy Cotler, and Holly Jones
  19. Papa and the Pioneer Quilt by Jean Van Leeuwen and Rebecca Bond
  20. Prairie Friends by Nancy Smiler Levinson and Stacey Schuett
  21. Twister on Tuesday by Mary Pope Osborne
  22. Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman by Esmé Raji Codell and Lynne Rae Perkins
  23. Squirrel and John Muir by Emily Arnold McCully
  24. Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs and Paul O. Zelinsky
  25. Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner and Don Bolognese
  26. Westward Ho! An Activity Guide to the Wild West by Laurie Carlson

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Fair to Midway Stories


Ever since I took my daughters to the county fair this summer, they’ve been reenacting it with their toys. From the twirling rides to the newborn cow to the snow cones, their fair memories add new glamour to our old wagon and farm play set. I wanted to enrich their recollections with stories about all kinds of fairs. Each of the stories on this list shows a unique perspective, but all of them capture the excitement of the lush sensory experience that epitomizes the fair. So take home these stories, and keep that fair feeling all year long.

  1. Clarissa by Carol Talley and Itoko Maeno; take an unexpected trip to the fair with Clarissa the cow, who finds out that kindness offers its own rewards.
  2. County Fair by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Jody Wheeler; bask in the sights and sounds of an old-fashioned fair as the Wilder family displays their hard work and earns their ribbons.
  3. A Fabulous Fair Alphabet by Debra Frasier; traipse from A to Z with bold, energetic illustrations that mimic the fair’s stimulating scenes.
  4. Fair! by Ted Lewin; watch the fair’s transformation from setup to opening night to judging day to take down, and see the labor and pleasure in every stage.
  5. Fair Cow by Leslie Helakoski; help Effie prepare for the fair and learn that she can be the fairest of them all simply by being herself.
  6. Hurry Down to Derry Fair by Dori Chaconas and Gillian Tyler; catch the rhyming excitement of Dinny Brown, who can’t wait to get to the fair with his family.
  7. I Know a Wee Piggy by Kim Norman and Henry Cole; chase a wee piggy through a colorful, rhyming romp at the fair.
  8. Knitting Nell by Julie Jersild Roth; get to know Nell, a great knitter and listener who wins big at the fair and finds her friendly voice.
  9. Minerva Louise at the Fair by Janet Morgan Stoeke; follow a star-struck chicken through the fair’s dazzling sights, including a blue ribbon and a fancy new coop.
  10. Molly Who Flew Away by Valeri Gorbachev; chase Molly and her friends through the fair and the skies in this uplifting tale of friendship.
  11. Only One by Marc Harshman and Barbara Garrison; practice creative counting with a book that shows how all the exhibits come together for one fantastic fair.