Review: John Ronald’s Dragons

Earlier this year we were delighted to read a gentle introduction to the early life of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Written by Caroline McAlister and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien introduces the reader to a boy who loved dragons, hearing stories read aloud by his mother as a child.

Lovely illustrations detail important events in Tolkien’s life, such as living with an aunt after the unfortunate death of his mother, meeting and marrying his wife Edith, serving as a soldier in World War I, and even meeting at the pub with fellow writer friends (their group affectionately known as the Inklings).

Finally we see read about the “birth” of the hobbit, born of Tolkien’s imagination and brought to life through stories he told his children.

So many of us know the name Tolkien because of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit, but we know little of the man behind these stories.

This wonderful story makes Tolkien accessible to readers, young and old, and illustrates how many life experiences, even darker ones such as the death of a loved one and a world war, shaped the man who created an entire fantasy world that is loved the world over.

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Homeschool Reads December Edition

I wanted to share what books we are currently reading, or have finished reading, in December. Most of our morning school time is devoted to reading good books. Here are our recent selections.

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson

This is the first title we covered in our Teaching Character Through Literature Study (available from Beautiful Feet). This is a quick read, and we covered it in just a few days. I purposely kept us at two or three chapters per day so we could discuss what was going on in the story and with the characters. The children quite enjoyed this and (I think) took several lessons to heart. This story prompted a very good conversation about pride.

With holidays in December, our school schedule has been light. We have started a few new titles, mentioned briefly below, but I won’t comment too extensively until next month when we are finished reading them.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyon

This book was added to our Reading list because it is the book that the March sisters are reading throughout Little Women. This is the first allegory for Kyri, and I have been so impressed with how well she is following the story and understanding the deeper meaning.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

As mentioned above, Kyri is working through Little Women. She is reading an Illustrated Classics edition (abridged) but I recently added a lovely unabridged volume to our library so we will read the unabridged together when she finishes.

The Burgess Book of Birds by Thornton Burgess

We have recently added in this selection to our morning reading time. I love it because it is a wonderful way to introduce real facts about animals, like migration and nesting, but in a delightful, fanciful way.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Kyri finished the Illustrated Children’s (abridged) edition last month, and has started the unabridged version this month. She is so enamored with the entire story. I think we may have to get some goats and a hay loft for her!

King Arthur and His Knights by Elizabeth Lodor Merchant

This is a wonderful collection of stories about King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. This has been our family read aloud and we will be finishing it in January.

Finding Children’s Books

childrensbooksI am always on the lookout for excellent book selections for the children. We love illustrated books and try to read several throughout the week as part of our school day. I will often find the children reading them together in the evening as well. 

 
While I can scan the shelves or displays at our library branch easy enough, and we do tend to come home with several books that we just grab off the shelves, our library system has several branches and content changes as books are reshelved where they are returned. 
 
I also prefer books that I’ve read some feedback on or that have been recognized in some way for their content. I regularly sit down with book lists compiled from various websites and request them from our library. Then I can pick them up from our branch’s hold shelf. Super easy! Here are some of my “go to” resources for children’s book recommendations.
 
ALA Book Awards
 
Various book medal awards are given each year by the American Library Association to recognize outstanding books. The Caldecott medal is awarded each year for children’s picture book, and the award goes to the artist, regardless of whether they are also the author of the book. The Newberry Medal is awarded each year to the author of the most distinguished contribution to  American children’s literature. The Silbert Book Medal is awarded to the author and illustrator of the most distinguished informational book each year. 
 
Current medal recipients, as well as winners from previous years, are listed on the ALA website. Additional award lists can also be found on the ALA website under Youth Media Awards.  The ALA also puts together a list of Notable Children’s Books. This is an excellent source of children’s book titles to include in your weekly reading.
 
SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books
 
Science Magazine also includes a roundup of science and nature themed children’s books each year when they publish the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books. Often there are medal recipients included in this roundup. Current and previous years are available here
 
Goodreads
 
Goodreads  is also another great resource for book recommendations. You can “Explore” book selections by genre, and see new releases as well as most read each week. There are also Lists  – Goodread members often put together lists of their own recommendations or contribute to larger lists that are searchable. Each book selection includes reviews and commentaries by members. 
 
Pinterest
 
Pinterest is a great resource for book lists. A simple search for children’s literature will turn up a large selection of blogs and websites that contain children’s book recommendations. These book lists range from the top books “all children should read” to content specific titles such as “books about courage.”
 
Author’s Websites
 
Another way to find books is to explore a particular author. Once we’ve read one book from a particular author, we usually seek out other titles, which are often award winning books too. A simple Google search will usually turn up an author’s website and book list. For example, right now we are reading through several selections by Molly Bang. Look for an upcoming post on a science series she has put out!