phd mama

from diapers to deconstruction


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An Epic Adventure in Greece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our unit study of Greece turned out to be a long one because there are so many great stories out there. While I started with and wanted to include some contemporary stories about Greece, my children were enthralled by the mythological tales. This list is a mix of modern and mythological, with more emphasis on the latter, though there’s a bit of science, math, and geography in here too. I always feel that a list has been successful when my children incorporate it into their play, and even after finishing this one, my younger daughter still runs around the yard shouting “I have the strength of Hercules!” Our captivation with these stories from a place rich in history and culture speaks to the enduring strength of Greece.

  1. The Adventures of Bella & Harry: Let’s Visit Athens by Lisa Manzione and Kristine Lucco
  2. Aesop’s Fables illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
  3. Ancient Greece and the Olympics by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Osborne
  4. Be Patient, Pandora! by Joan Holub and Leslie Patricelli
  5. The Best Book of Ancient Greece by Belinda Weber
  6. Christmas in Greece by World Book
  7. Color Crayola’s Greek Flag
  8. Count Your Way through Greece by Jim Haskins, Kathleen Benson, and Janice Lee Porter
  9. Cupid and Psyche by M. Charlotte Craft and K. Y. Craft
  10. D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
  11. Echo Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer and Josée Masse
  12. Favorite Greek Myths by Mary Pope Osborne and Troy Howell
  13. The First Marathon: The Legend of Pheidippides by Susan Reynolds and Daniel Minter
  14. The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus by Aliki
  15. Greece by C.I.A. World Factbook
  16. Hercules by Robert Burleigh and Raul Colón
  17. The Hero and the Minotaur: The Fantastic Adventures of Theseus by Robert Byrd
  18. Hour of the Olympics by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  19. I Am Pan! by Mordicai Gerstein
  20. I Have an Olive Tree by Eve Bunting by Karen Barbour
  21. The Iliad by Gillian Cross and Neil Packer
  22. King Midas and the Golden Touch by Charlotte Craft and K.Y. Craft
  23. The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky and Kevin Hawkes
  24. The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
  25. Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey by Doug Kuntz, Amy Shrodes, and Sue Cornelison
  26. The Odyssey by Homer and Manuela Adreani
  27. The Odyssey by Gillian Cross and Neil Packer
  28. The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece by Anthony Manna, Soula Mitkakidou, and Giselle Potter
  29. Pandora by Robert Burleigh and Raul Colón
  30. Pegasus by Marianna Mayer and K.Y. Craft
  31. Pegasus, the Flying Horse by Jane Yolen and Li Ming
  32. Mice, Morals, & Monkey Business: Lively Lessons from Aesop’s Fables by Christopher Wormel
  33. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale by Anthony Manna, Christodoula Mitakidou, and Giselle Potter
  34. Mythological Monsters of Ancient Greece by Sara Fanelli
  35. The Pomegranate Seeds by Laura Geringer and Leonid Gore
  36. The Rabbit and the Turtle by Eric Carle
  37. Watch Rick Steves’ Greece & Turkey
  38. This is Greece by M. Sasek
  39. The Trojan Horse: How the Greeks Won the War by Emily Little and Michael Eagle
  40. Usborne Greek Myths for Young Children by Heather Amery and Linda Edwards
  41. What’s Your Angle Pythagoras? A Math Adventure by Julie Ellis and Phyllis Hornung
  42. Who Was Alexander the Great? by Kathryn Waterfield and Robin Waterfield


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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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Aloha, Hawaii!

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I started this list because of all the buzz about Moana; while I realize that film is not totally rooted in Hawaiian culture, I wanted my children to have a deeper understanding of the rich history of one of the Polynesian islands than a single film (however dominant in the marketplace) could provide. What follows is a list that delves into the historical, geological, and mythological stories of Hawaii. There are stories that focus on native peoples, colonialism, Pearl Harbor, and President Obama, as well as tales that tell of contemporary, everyday life on the islands. There are stories of the volcanoes and wildlife that make the islands unique. And there are, of course, stories from the mythological tradition (many about Maui that, my elder daughter noted, did not make it into the Disney movie). As always, I appreciate the interdisciplinary approach of this list and the way it illustrates a place with a rich history that is by no means confined to the past.

  1. A is for Aloha: A Hawai’i Alphabet by U’ilani Goldsberry and Tammy Yee
  2. The Adventures of Bella & Harry: Let’s Visit Maui! by Lisa Manzione and Kristine Lucco
  3. Aloha Is… by Tammy Paikai and Rosalie Prussing
  4. Children of Hawaii by Frank Staub
  5. Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan and Lillian Hsu-Flanders
  6. Goodnight Hawaiian Moon by Dr. Carolan and Joanna F. Carolan
  7. Grandma Calls Me Beautiful by Barbara Joosse and Barbara Lavallee
  8. Listen to Hawaiian Playground by Putumayo Kids Presents
  9. Hawai’i: The Aloha State by Jill Foran
  10. Hawaii: The Aloha State by Emily Oachs
  11. The Hawai’i Snowman by Christine Lê and Michel Lê
  12. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park by M.C. Hall
  13. How Māui Slowed the Sun by Suelyn Ching Tune and Robert Yoko Burningham
  14. Hula Lullaby by Erin Eitter Kono
  15. The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka’iulani of Hawai’i by Fay Stanley and Diane Stanley
  16. The Legend of the Kukui Nut by Robert Brandon Henderson and Mark McKenna
  17. Legends of Landforms: Native American Lore and the Geology of the Land by Carole G. Vogel
  18. Little Princess Ka’iulani in Her Garden in the Sea by Ellie Crowe and Mary Koski
  19. Māui and the Secret of Fire by Suelyn Ching Tune and Robert Yoko Burningham
  20. The Menehune of Naupaka Village: A Hawaiian Fairy Tale by Christopher Sur and Gary Kato
  21. The Musubi Man: Hawai’i’s Gingerbread Man by Sandi Takayama and Pat Hall
  22. Pearl Harbor by Stephen Krensky and Larry Day
  23. Pele and Poli’ahu: A Tale of Fire and Ice by Malia Collins and Kathleen Peterson
  24. Pele and the Rivers of Fire by Michael Nordenstrom
  25. Pig-Boy: A Trickster Tale from Hawai’i by Gerald McDermott
  26. A President from Hawai’i by Dr. Terry Carolan, Joanna Carolan, and Elizabeth Zunon
  27. Punia and the King of Sharks: A Hawaiian Folktale by Lee Wardlaw and Felipe Davalos
  28. South Pacific Mythology by Jim Ollhoff
  29. The Story of Hula by Carla Golembe
  30. The Surprising Things Maui Did by Jay Williams and Charles Mikolaycak
  31. Tales of Tutu Nene and Nele by Gale Bates and Carole Hinds McCarty
  32. Tsunami: The True Story of an April Fools’ Day Disaster by Gail Langer Karwoski and John MacDonald
  33. The Woman in the Moon: A Story from Hawai’i by Jama Kim Rattigan and Carla Golembe
  34. Young Princesses around the World: A Story Based on the Real Life of Princess Liliuokalani of Hawaii by Joan Holub and Nonna Aleshina
  35. Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien


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Earth, Moon, and Stars

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[Disclaimer: Based on my daughter’s artwork, above, an asteroid will obliterate the earth, rendering this list unnecessary.]

This list repeats a little of “Our Place in Space,” but it’s primarily an extension of that content because my kids are really into space. In addition to using some great, clear nights to use our telescope, we developed this list to enhance our understanding of space with stories about the earth, moon, and stars. Some of the texts are scientific non-fiction; others are myths and legends; others still are historical and biographical. I love the way these different kinds of stories intersect across disciplines and reveal so many different perspectives of the world, our place within it, and our role in the big picture of space.

 

Earth

Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

Comets, Meteors, and Asteroids by Seymour Simon

Watch The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about That: Space is the Place

Destination: Space by Seymour Simon

The Earth Is Painted Green: A Garden of Poems about Our Planet edited by Barbara Brenner and illustrated by S. D. Schindler

Earth: Our Planet in Space by Seymour Simon

Earth Tales from Around the World by Michael J. Caduto and Adelaide Murphy Tyrol

First Earth Encyclopedia by DK Publishing

Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

Watch Nutmeg Media’s Living Sunlight

On Earth by G. Brian Karas

Our Solar System by Seymour Simon

Planet Earth/Inside Out by Gail Gibbons

Watch DK Eyewitness’s Planets

The Planets by Gail Gibbons

Saturn by Seymour Simon

What Makes Day and Night by Franklyn M. Branley and Arthur Dorros

You’re Aboard Spaceship Earth by Patricia Lauber and Holly Keller

What’s So Special about Planet Earth? by Robert E. Wells

 

Moon

Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann

Hello, Harvest Moon by Ralph Fletcher and Kate Kiesler

I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis and Alison Jay

If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty and Steven Kellogg

The Man Made of Stars by M. H. Clark and Lisa Evans

The Moon by Seymour Simon

Moon by Steve Tomecek and Liisa Chauncy Guida

The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons

Moonday by Adam Rex

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John

Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle

Phases of the Moon by Gillia M. Olson and Jo Miller

Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons by Joseph Bruchac, Jonathan London, and Thomas Locker

What the Moon is Like by Franklyn M. Branley and True Kelley

 

Stars

How the Stars Fell into the Sky: A Navajo Legend by Jerrie Oughton and Lisa Desimini

How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers

Jump into Science: Stars by Steve Tomecek and Sachiko Yoshikawa

Our Stars by Anne Rockwell

Stars by Mary Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee

The Sun: Our Nearest Star by Franklyn M. Branley and Edward Miller

 


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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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When Irish Eyes Are Reading

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For our study of Ireland, we listened to a lot of toe-tapping tunes and fancied finding wee folk all over. As with all of our place-based units, there’s a mixture here of folklore and history. We made connections to our own family background and our region’s Irish influences, not to mention finding a new bread recipe we love. I got to share one of my favorite childhood movies with my girls and found a new and enchanting film for us all. Our exploration of The Emerald Isle was filled with wonder, but the real magic, as always, is in the journey-by-book.

  1. Brigid’s Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story by Bryce Milligan and Helen Cann
  2. Watch Darby O’Gill and the Little People
  3. Fiona’s Lace by Patricia Polacco
  4. Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman and Kelly Murphy
  5. Great Irish Legends for Children by Yvonne Carroll and Robin Lawrie
  6. “Ireland” by CIA World Factbook
  7. Color the flags of Ireland and Northern Ireland by Crayola
  8. The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo and Loretta Krupinski
  9. Irish Fairy Tales edited by Philip Smith
  10. Bake Irish Soda Bread
  11. Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato: An Irish Folktale by Tomie dePaola
  12. Leprechaun in Late Winter by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  13. Leprechauns and Irish Folklore by Mary Pope Osborne, Natalie Pope Bryce, and Sal Murdocca
  14. The Leprechaun’s Gold by Pamela Duncan Edwards and Henry Cole
  15. Leprechauns on the Loose: An Adventure in Ireland by Disney’s Small World Library
  16. The Long March: The Choctaw’s Gift to Irish Famine Relief by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
  17. O’Sullivan Stew by Hudson Talbott
  18. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola
  19. The Prince of Ireland and the Three Magic Stallions by Bryce Milligan and Preston McDaniels
  20. Listen to Putumayo Presents: Celtic Crossroads
  21. Listen to Putumayo Presents: Women of the World, Celtic
  22. S is for Shamrock: An Ireland Alphabet by Eve Bunting and Matt Faulkner
  23. Watch The Secret of Kells
  24. This is Ireland by Miroslav Sasek
  25. Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk: An Irish Tale by Gerald McDermott
  26. Viking Ships at Sunrise by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca


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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