Category Archives: read-alouds

Goldtown Beginnings from Kregel Publications {Review}

I love adding historically acurate novels to our library for my boys so when we received the first two books in the Goldtown Beginnings series ( Jem Strikes Gold  and Jem’s Frog Fiasco ) for review from Kregel Publications, we were very happy!

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It is not always easy to find good novels in which the main character is a boy, so of course I jumped on this one because I have all boys. With their delays, these were a very good reading level, especially for “The Puzzler.”

In each of the books, written by Susan K. Marlow and illustrated by Okan Bülbül, there is a vocabulary section right in the front of the book, as opposed to being in the back where I more often see it (if there even is one!).

In book 1, Jem Strikes Gold, eight year old Jem is living in a gold camp with his family, Pa, Mama, and his little sister Ellie.

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Jem’s pa has a big gold claim along Cripple Creek, while Jem and Ellie each have a small one adjacent to their pa’s. People during the gold rush believed that heading to gold country would make them rich very quickly, but the reality was that panning for gold was terribly hard work. In fact, many people made more money selling services and cooking for other miners. Other miners would pay them in gold. Jem and Ellie’s Mama made pies and sold them to other miners, and to the cafe, and was paid in gold for them. When the children are delivering that day’s pies (blueberry, my favorite!) we are introduced to Will, the son of the town’s richest man and a real bully. He causes the pies to be ruined and Jem’s remembered Bible verses on dealing with bullies to fly right out of his head. When a fellow miner gives Jem a dog, Mama at first forbids it. But Nugget slowly worms his way into her heart after he helps to ensure that Will never picks on them again. You can read an excerpt from this book here, and coloring pages of the illustrations in this book at this link. There are activity pages and a schedule for this book here.

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In Jem’s Frog Fiasco, Jem gets a job catching Bullfrogs for the cafe owner’s menu. Unfortunately, Ellie and Nugget get in the way, and he and Ellie argue. When Ellie leaves, and doesn’t make it home, the searching begins. Jem and Nugget find and rescue her from a coyote hole dug by a miner looking for gold. You can read an excerpt of this book here, and download the coloring pages at this link. Activity pages with a schedule for this book can be found here.

At the end of each book is “A Peek into History” which gives a glimpse of historical facts related to the story.

These are fairly short books, 10 chapters over about 80 pages each. The chapters are quick paced and engaging, and my son liked the books very much.

I would love for you to read what other families thought of Jem Strikes Gold and Jem’s Frog Fiasco! To see the thoughts of 44 other Review Crew Members, please click on the banner just below.

Jem Strikes Gold & Jem's Frog Fiasco  {Kregel Publications Reviews}

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Filed under Goldtown Beginnings, History, Jem's Adventures, read-alouds

If You Were Me and Lived In . . . A T.O.S. Review

We were sent four cute little books from Carol P. Roman with Away We Go Media to review in our homeschool.

We received:

If You Were Me and Lived In . . . South Korea . . .

If You Were Me And Lived In . . . France . . .

If You Were Me And Lived In . . . Mexico

and . . .

“If You Were Me And Lived In . . . Norway . . .”

The author was also kind enough to gift us with an inflatable globe, a couple of pencils with international flags printed on them, and a play passport set, all of which my boys thought were very cool, most especially the globe. 🙂

These books are the beginning of a series of books that can be used to introduce other countries and cultures to younger children. They are intended for children ranging from Pre-K through age 8, but my kids enjoyed them as well.

They range in price from $8.99 to $10.79 in the paperback editions, which is what we received, or $.99 to $1.99 in Kindle format, which some of the other Review Crew Members received.

Each of these books follows the same basic formula. It is a short book, approximately 25 to 30 pages long, exploring the culture of a different country.

At the very beginning, we get a picture of the country featured in the book, which has a star marking the capital. Then, we go right into the little story with a boy and girl pointing to their country on a globe. This is followed up by talking briefly about the capital city, and a picture of a scene from that city. Next, there is a picture of the boy and girl in a scene relating to where they are, and talking about three different names you might have if you are a boy, and three names that would be popular for a girl in that country. Next, along with a cute picture of the children doing something with their parents, we learn what you would call your mom and your dad in that language! From there, we next see the children in a place of business, and we discover what their money is called, what they might be buying there, and what the business would be called in their language. In the different books, we learn about a popular sport, a favorite vacation place, a holiday, special things they might eat, and their school. All of these things use words in the language of the country the book is covering.

At the end of the book is a page with a glossary of all of the foreign language words. This is perhaps the one thing I would change, I would have preferred to have the translations perhaps within parentheses right next to the actual words, that way, we would not have needed to go back and forth every time we came upon a word in a different language. 🙂

we did do our best though, to try to guess what the words meant, and occasionally, we were actually successful!

I think these books are nicely done, and very cute. As it turned out, they were a bit young for my older kids, but my twins like them, and I’ve seen them reading them again. And, the bonus is that all of the boys were looking for, and finding the different countries on the globe and on a map we have from a previous review. 🙂

To read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of these books, please click on the graphic below!
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Filed under Away We Go Media, education, family, Foreign language homeschooling, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, Language Arts, Learn to Read, read-alouds, Reading, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, special needs education, TOS Post, TOS Review, Ultimate Blog Challenge 2013

Diary Of A Real Payne . . . A T.O.S. Review

OK, full disclosure here . . . when I saw the description of this novel from Barbour Publishing, I applied for the review because *I* wanted to read it! I did not CARE if my boys wanted it or not, I thought it looked like a fun read-aloud! So I was very pleased to be chosen for this one. 🙂

The book Diary Of A Real Payne Book 1: True Story written by Annie Tipton, is VERY entertaining!

Diary Of A Real Pain is written from the viewpoint of Emma Jean Payne (E.J. for short), a ten-year-old girl who dreams of leaving her small town Spooner, Wisconsin, so she can do BIG things when she grows up. She just KNOWS that small towns like Spooner are not where big things will ever happen, and that it is the “boringest” place there is.

The book goes back and forth between an entry in E.J.’s diary (which her mother thought would be a “good outlet” for her), and the story narration in the rest of each chapter. E.J. has big dreams, and they are regularly changing, as you’ll find out in both her diary entries and the continuation of the story within each chapter.

E.J.’s father is the pastor of the local church, and this novel has the Christian world view I prefer for my children to read whenever possible. Add to that the absolute hilarious-ness of E.J’s life, and all the trouble she finds herself getting into as a result of her extremely vivid imagination, and we had a winner for this particular read-aloud.

This story is about a girl, and I have, as you know, all boys, but they LOVED it! So many times, as I read from this book, one or another of my boys would suddenly exclaim “uh oh, I can see where THIS is going”, or “Oooh, she’s about to get herself into trouble again, isn’t she?”

E.J. zooms from career idea to career idea, and we get to have a front row seat as her imagination takes flight each time. Even when she, her little brother Isaac (or “the space invader”, according to E.J.”, and her friend Macie go door to door collecting for the school food drive, they decide to perform a mini circus at each home, complete with costumes. Of course, before long, we are reading E.J.’s account of their performance as if they are in a REAL circus!

As we read each chapter, the narrative goes immediately from what is actually happening right into E.J.’s imaginative account of what is happening in HER view, at least until something happens to bring her back to reality. And something ALWAYS does, too, like almost knocking down an entire store display while being a “famous female race-car driver”, for example.

Sometimes, E.J.’s imaginary interactions involve her nemesis, Coralee McCallister, the girl who is generally not very nice to her, and occasionally pulls a fast one to beat out E.J. at something (like deliberately making her nervous during the spelling bee, for instance)

We discover pretty quickly, as I said above, that E.J. believes nothing big ever can happen in Spooner, that she can never do the “big things” she is surely destined for. So, she imagines them, while waiting to grow up, move away, and then DO them.

When we got to chapter 14, though, something happened in the story that began to make E.J. realize this wasn’t necessarily true, that people can be part of doing “big things” anywhere, even in a boring little town like Spooner, Wisconsin. I’m not going to reveal to you what it is that causes her to realize this, but know one thing, although this book is juvenile fiction, when we got to chapter 14, it brought ME to tears.

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Annie Tipton is an EXCELLENT read-aloud. It is actually recommended for ages 8 – 12, but as we discovered, it was a fun experience for all of us. My boys were rolling with laughter, and even managed to learn a few things about how good their own life is, and how we never really know what others may be going through.

The novel Diary Of A Real Payne Book 1: True Story is 192 pages long, and is currently on sale for $4.49, with a regular price of $5.99. You may order it here.

We made the pleasant discovery at the end of the book that there is a second volume in the works, “Diary Of A Real Payne: Church Camp Chaos” which will be coming out in March of 2014. My kids and I are excited about that, as we really, really enjoyed this one!

In the mean-while, E.J. has her own Facebook page, where you can keep up with her “latest antics, diary entries, contests and more!”

To read what other Schoolhouse Review Crew Members thought of this book, please click below!
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Filed under Annie Tipton, Christian faith, Diary of a Real Payne, education, family, home education, homeschool products, Kids, read-alouds, Reading, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, TOS Review, Ultimate Blog Challenge 2013