Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site Newsletter

Volume 22. Issue 2.


Recent Additions to Our Site

Novels, Picture Books, Nonfiction, a Chapter Book and a Graphic Novel

In this newsletter we have two articles. The first is a guest article by our long-time advertiser Time4Learning. It's for homeschoolers and addresses the question of what-to-teach-when.

The second article is a collection of some great books that have recently been added to the site. There are some old favorites and some newer titles. I've included books for preschool through ninth grade. There are picture books, nonfiction, novels, a chapter book and a graphic novel. Topics include music, New Orleans, the Westward Movement in the US, humor, lizards, a ghost story and more. Something for everyone.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, for instance, is one of those classics that I just assumed I had read and then realized I never actually had. It's a fun parody of the standard English orphan stories. Wonderful as a read-aloud.

Walk on Earth a Stranger is one of those historical fiction novels I had trouble putting down. It's set in the US in 1849 as a young woman travels from Georgia to California. Lizards won me over with its amazing photographs. Baby Mouse Skater Girl is a fun graphic novel for the younger set. The Bear Ate Your Sandwich made me laugh out loud at the final twist. Doll Bones won a Newbery Honor for its slightly spooky ghost story.

Finally, I've added the picture book autobiography Trombone Shorty because of its wonderful depiction of the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans and the palpable love of music which resonates throughout the book. You can read more about all these books in the article below.


What does my homeschooler need to learn this year?

If you previously had a child in a brick-and-mortar school, you may have gotten a list of "Learning Objectives" from your child's teacher at the beginning of the school year. This is a schedule of things the teacher is likely to cover, and that your child will hopefully learn, in the upcoming school year. When you're homeschooling, though, that list is noticeably absent. You can peek under your pillow in hopes that the homeschool fairy granted you a special request, but chances are that those 'learning objectives" are now on your agenda to decide.

This can make new homeschooling parents understandably uneasy. Where do I start if I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to be teaching? What if I miss something? What if my child falls behind?

After several rounds of deep-breathing, the next thing to do to calm yourself when thinking like this is to realize that taking your child's education into your own hands is actually freeing. All those "standards" that apply to the mass education system can now be seen as "guidelines" for you to customize according to your child’s individual needs.

Grade Levels and Homeschooling

This may come as a surprise, but for families who’ve been homeschooling for a while, "grade levels" become less important. In fact, it's not unusual for a homeschool parent or student to have to stop and think when asked what grade their child is in. That's because grade levels, while an important way for traditional education to organize student progress, may or may not be the best way for parents to gauge how their child is performing. Although grade-specific homeschool guidelines can be a tremendously helpful tool when deciding what to cover in any given year, the truth is that your child is the ultimate compass to follow when determining what's appropriate to learn and when.

Homeschooling Ages and Stages

A more accurate way to decide what your homeschooler should be learning might be by looking at their specific development. Is your five year old asking what specific words on signs spell or can easily recognize his or her own name in writing? It might be time to begin teaching reading! Is skip-counting a breeze for your student? Multiplication might be just around the corner.

Read the rest of this article.

Some Books Recently Added to Our Site

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Grades 3 - 7
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. Chapter Book. 192 pages.
Find this book: Amazon

This parody of a gothic melodrama tells of two cousins, Bonnie and Sylvia who, through the villainy of Miss Slighcarp, become wards in an orphanage. With the help of a gooseherd, Simon, they escape from the orphanage, rescue an impoverished aunt, cause the arrest of Miss Slighcarp and her two accomplices, and regain control of the mansion just in time to greet Bonnie's parents who have not, after all, been lost at sea. Read More in our Featured Book Teachers Guide with discussion questions, extension activities, related books and links.

More of Our Favorite Funny Books

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Grades PreK - 9
Lizards by Nic Bishop. Nonfiction. 48 pages.
Find this book: Amazon

This is a visual feast of lush photos, with enough detail to allow careful observation of individual traits. You can feel the texture of each individual scale, eyelid, nostril and tooth. This book is also full of examples of these reptiles' adaptations. Many photos include information on which country or continent the lizard can be found, so there are opportunities to integrate this science topic with geography, especially geography units which survey large areas of the world or geography units on deserts or rain forests. Read More.

More of Our Favorite Desert Books

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Grades PreK - 2
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Picture Book. 40 pages.
Find this book: Amazon

This is a wonderful example of an unreliable narrator. The tale opens with, "By now I think you know what happened to your sandwich. But you may not know how it happened. So let me tell you." Our unseen narrator proceeds to tell us about a bear who begins his adventure as a stowaway on a farm truck. The final pages give us the first glimpse of our narrator. "So. That's what happened to your sandwich. The bear ate it." says the dog with a scrap of lettuce at its feet. Great fun for the preschool through second grade crowd, and great for demonstrating an unreliable narrator with older students. Read More.

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Grades 6 - 9
Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson. Novel. 448 pages.
Find this book: Amazon

This captivating book is a wonderful piece of historical fiction with one genre-bending exception that the main character can sense the presence of gold, which gives the book a touch of fantasy. This is the first book in the Gold Seer Trilogy. Fifteen-year-old Lee lives with her parents in Dahlonega, Georgia in 1849. They have come there for the first major gold rush in the US, but now the gold is mostly gone. When Lee must flee and disguise herself as a boy, she works her way across the country to the California Gold Rush, first by horseback, then by boat, and finally by wagon train. Great for sixth grade and older. Read More.

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Grades 4 - 8
Doll Bones by Holly Black. Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. Novel. 256 pages.
Find this book: Amazon

This Newbery Honor winning ghost story is great for reluctant readers as well as more enthusiastic readers. Three early adolescents, Zach, Alice, and Poppy, have been playing an elaborate game for years using action figures and dolls. When Poppy says that the ghost of a young girl told her that the bone china doll is made from her bones and contains her ashes, the three friends embark on a journey from Pennsylvania to Ohio to bury the remains at the girl's grave. If they don't, the ghost will curse them. The excellent writing takes what could have been an all-too-familiar premise and turns it into something extraordinary. Read More.

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Grades PreK - 4
Trombone Shorty by "Trombone Shorty" Troy Andrews. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Picture Book. 40 pages.
Find this book: Amazon

Growing up in the '90s in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, Troy was surrounded by music. This beautifully illustrated story follows him from making his own instruments out of household objects with his friends to becoming a world-famous musician. Along the way we get a taste of low-income New Orleans and Trombone Shorty's consuming passion for music. Read More.

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Grades 2 - 5
Babymouse 7: Skater Girl by Jennifer L. Holm. Graphic Novel. 96 pages.
Find this book: Amazon

In this graphic novel, Babymouse wants to be a figure skater and win a gold medal. A coach sees her skating at the local pond and offers to give her lessons. She must get up at 4:00 AM to practice before school, and then practice again after school--and no more cupcakes--she must be light on her feet. Babymouse is exhausted and has nightmarish fantasies about her struggle for the gold medal. Will she stick with it or let it go? Read More.

Related Areas of Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site


That's it for this issue.

Happy reading!

- Rebecca Otis

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