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The Ultimate Lap Book Handbook...Plus Other Books to Make with Children

Book cover: 'The Ultimate Lap Book Handbook...Plus Other Books to Make with Children'
Author(s): 
Tammy Duby
Cyndy Regeling
Copyright: 
2003
Publisher: 
Tobin's Lab
Binding: 
Spiralbound
Number of pages: 
108 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

When it comes to craft projects, I am all thumbs. If I must struggle with following incomprehensible directions and managing difficult techniques, I prefer to end up with something delicious to eat. You can imagine my fear when I was first introduced to lap books---described by the author of the Ultimate Lap Book Handbook as "a file folder folded a funny way, and then filled with child-produced booklets". As I read through this book, my fear turned to fascination. This was one incredible project that even I could handle!

The authors begin with a very convincing ten-reason list of paragraphs describing why and how the making of books is beneficial to a student of any age. They continue with a section on Lap Books, including the basic ways of folding the folder and the booklets that go inside. Construction, assembly, and layout techniques are also discussed, and cover designs and FAQs are described. The next section is titled "Beyond Lap Books" and contains the instructions for making simple books, stick books, pizza books, hardcover books, and more. Are you getting overwhelmed yet? Don't! This is where most "how-to" books end, expecting you to be able to apply these ideas to your own homeschool. The Ultimate Lap Book Handbook is just getting to the best part.

The heart of the book is the Book Blueprints section. The authors proceed through Bible, History, Literature. Math (Yes! Even Math!), Science, and Social Studies, and they offer step-by-step directions for more than fifty projects at all grade levels. Will your 3rd-8th grade student be studying the Ten Commandments? Does your high schooler need a Math Formula Flip Book? Would your K-4th grader enjoy making a Weather book? The well-illustrated project directions provide no-fail projects for the craft-challenged as well as a comprehensive range of starter ideas for experienced "Fun Moms". Many black-and-white photographs of finished projects are also included. Each project description includes Writing Prep and Presentation sections in addition to any helpful tips. More advanced projects also include a list of materials, suggested booklets for the inside, assembly directions, and evaluation guidelines. These techniques can be used with any homeschooling method from strictly classical to unit study to textbooks. They can be used with just one child or a CCD class or a Scout group. I can't wait to get started making our next book!

Review Date: 
8-16-04
Reviewed by: 

The Universe: Think Big!

Book cover: 'The Universe: Think Big!'
Author(s): 
Jeanne Bendick
Copyright: 
1991
Publisher: 
Millbrook Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Jeanne Bendick, author of Archimedes and the Door of Science, explains some basic concepts regarding the universe in a surprisingly simple way (approximately 2nd grade reading level - short pages with large type). First she invites children to try to imagine how big the universe is (in terms of it being much, much bigger than other, more familiar things). The bulk of the book focuses on large distances and how they're measured and how people used to believe that the earth was at the center of the universe and remained motionless. The final page explains the big bang theory. For a controversial topic it is explained rather nice in terms of "How did the Universe begin? Nobody knows for sure, but here is what most scientists of today think." Although the big bang theory was first thought of by a Catholic priest (LeMaitre) who was trying to point toward something which God created, we all know that the big bang theory is often used to try to explain God away. Young children don't have much trouble with this when presented as it is in this book. After the book says "Suddenly, this object exploded with a big bang." you can ask your children, "If this is the way the Universe really did begin, then who made the explosion happen?" Chances are, they'll know the answer. :)

Reviewed by: 

The Virtue Driven Life

Author(s): 
Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.
Copyright: 
2006
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
158 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a beautiful and helpful little book that explains and elucidates on the Cardinal Virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) and Theological Virtues (faith, hope and charity) in a helpful and accessible way. The idea is to examine and understand the idea of trying to live a virtuous life in a day and age in which "virtuous" is practically an insult.

Each virtue is covered in a chapter of about 15-20 pages. Each virtue is explained in practical and spiritual terms and with clear distinctions made between the natural and supernatural manifestations of each virtue. Each chapter concludes with a set of discussion/reflection questions and a prayer.

Father is a great story teller and uses this ability to great effect in helping the reader understand these ideas. The book is engaging, relevant and (a great virtue in itself!) short.

Here is a brief excerpt from the chapter on Fortitude:

Pope John Paul II was a seminarian in Poland during the days of Nazi occupation. Had he been found out, it would have meant death or transferal to a slave labor camp. Throughout his life he remained an example of courage. Courage means strength or fortitude in danger, but also in the daily round and challenges of life. It might take more courage just to get up on certain days than it would to face a great danger. Difficulties, setbacks, misunderstandings, failures, deep hurts - all of these requrie coraggio.

This moral virtue is recognized and admired by all people. Every nation that has grown, developed, and made its mark on history has had its heroes and stories of courage. One of the signs of a society in decline, like our own, is the absence of admiration for people of courage. Our country was founded by men who said in effect, "Either we hang together or we will hang alone." Signers of the Declaration of Independence were ipso facto traitors to the British crown, to which they owed allegiance. Had htey been arrested, they would have been liable to death.

...

Sadly, we don't admire courage much anymore in our country. There is no message of courage. The Vietnam War memorial in Washington shows three soldiers with terror written on their faces. Older war memorials show courage. It is a natural virtue that makes people willing to face extreme danger or to endure great difficulty over a long period of time in order to accomplish a decent goal they have set for themselves. It is to be distinguished from bravado, or foolhardiness, which characterizes a selfish, egotistical goal.

This is an excellent book for Catholics looking to live out their faith more fully. It's particularly designed for a small discussion group and would be suitable for older teens as well as adults.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1-8-2008
Reviewed by: 

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Book cover: 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader'
Author(s): 
C.S. Lewis
Copyright: 
1952
Publisher: 
HarperTrophy
Series: 
Chronicles of Narnia
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
248 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The two youngest of the four children - Edmund and Lucy - are staying with a nasty young relative, Eustace Scrubb over the holidays. The three of them are drawn into Narnia together through a painting of a ship at sea and find themselves on a real ship in Narnia with their old friend Caspian from the previous story. He is in the midst of a great sea voyage through many lands beyond Narnia, searching for great men of Narnia the previous king had sent into exile.

The book is strongly reminiscent of the great Greek epic, Homer's Odyssey while Christian themes abound, such as: repentance, our need for supernatural help in fighting our vices, the horrors of slavery, the dangers of magic, etc.

Here is a small sampling (the first few paragraphs of the book):

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none. He didn't call his Father and Mother "Father" and "Mother," but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open.

Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially bettles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools.

Eustace Clarence disliked his cousins the four Pevensies, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. But he was quite glad when he heard that Edmund and Lucy were coming to stay. For deep down inside him he liked bossing and bullying; and, though he was a puny little person who couldn't have stood up even to Lucy, let alone Edmund, in a fight, he knew that there are dozens of ways to give people a bad time if you are in your own home and they are only visitors.

Review Date: 
5-26-05
Reviewed by: 

The Way Things Work Kit

Book cover: 'The Way Things Work Kit'
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
Dorling Kindersley
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This kit provides dozens of special cardboard pieces, wooden dowels string, wheels, etc. for making simple machines (inclined planes, scales, etc.) that can be used for understanding basic concepts of mechanics - how things work. Based upon the bestselling "The Way Things Work" by David Macaulay, the kit continues the theme of Wooly Mammoths as props and characters for use in these experiments. (Included in the kit are two cardboard Wooly Mammoths to which you affix a certain number of identical coins to provide a common weight for some of the experiments.) A thin, but colorful book (32 pages - glossy cover) takes you through the scientific explanations of the various principles involved in the experiments. 5 1/2 " x 8 1/2" glossy full color cards provide detailed step-by-step instructions (with the typical DK photos) for each experiment.

Although some of the experiments took a little more finesse than might have been expected (but understandable due to the limitations of the materials) and some of the instruction cards were a little hard to follow, overall we found this to be an exceptional value - a lot of bang for your buck at the $30 retail price. We found that a dozen or so ziploc bags were very helpful in keeping the various pieces straight and, with a little patience, all the pieces can be stored in the box.

The biggest hit in our family so far was the Pinball Science CD ROM which also came with the kit. Pinball Science Cover The game includes three pinball arenas each having a specific theme (village, island and moon). The science part involves answering questions in order to earn the right to place certain fixtures on each pinball game. Without the fixtures, scores are lower and players are unable to advance to the next level. With each question, the player has the option to "Research Answer". This feature takes the player to the appropriate page in an interesting, humorous and interactive log book which explains the functioning of various devices such as windmills, faucets, hot-air balloons, gears, and rockets. Some of the graphics are a little silly (Wooly Mammoths in bikinis on the island and such), but I didn't find anything really objectionable.

Review Date: 
4-4-01
Reviewed by: 

The Weight of a Mass

Book cover: 'The Weight of a Mass'
Author(s): 
Josephine Nobisso
Illustrator(s): 
Katalin Szegedi
Copyright: 
2002
Publisher: 
Gingerbread House
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
36 pages
Subject(s): 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

The best and most memorable lessons are taught through stories, and this gorgeous picture book will teach an unforgettable one. The Weight of a Mass is written in a fairy-tale style and enhanced by rich watercolor illustrations. It will appeal equally well to both boys and girls through countless re-readings.

Said to be based on a true event, the story unfolds as a poor, elderly woman begs for a crust of bread in a bakery. The baker scoffs at her request and demands to know what she will pay. Penniless, the woman offers to hear Mass for the giver of the bread in exchange. To prove that her offer is worthless, the baker writes "One Mass" on a slip of paper and places it on one side of a balance. As more and more delicacies are added to try to balance the scale, the slip of paper demonstrates miraculously that there is nothing on earth of greater value than the Mass.

This book is the perfect gift for a First Communicant, an adult who needs a gentle reminder of the value of their Faith, or anyone who enjoys reading to a child. Our children each have a "treasure chest" of things that they will take with them when they are grown and begin their own homes and families. I am purchasing a copy of this book for each of my children to place in their treasure chests. It deserves all of the awards that it has earned!

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
2-23-05
Reviewed by: 

The Weka-Feather Cloak

A New Zealand Fantasy
Book cover: 'The Weka-Feather Cloak: A New Zealand Fantasy'
Author(s): 
Leo Madigan
Copyright: 
2002
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
264 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

I have to be perfectly honest. I didn't expect to like this book. The idea of an overtly Catholic fantasy-adventure story trying to make it's way into the genre dominated by Harry Potter? Well... I skeptically picked up the book and read four or five chapters the night it arrived in the mail. It seemed interesting but things didn't seem to be making much sense yet. I picked it up again the next day and the plot thickened. A few more chapters and I was hooked. At about 10 pm I was planning on putting the book down to get ready for bed (no it didn't take me all day to read it - I do have five children!), but I decided on a quick sandwich first and, naturally, a little more of the story. Suddenly it was 12:30 and I was just finishing up the last chapter. I guess I'd have to give it two thumbs up.

Now for a little of the plot.... Danny Mago is a small, quiet 16 year old who is mercilessly picked on by his schoolmates, but recognized by his teachers as having remarkable artistic abilities. Knowing that his widowed mother is struggling to financially support Danny and his handicapped sister Angela, the deputy headmistress of his school offers him a job helping out on the grounds of the nun's convent and working as artistic assistant to Mother Madeleine, a renowned local artist. In cleaning up and cutting back overgrown portions of the convent grounds, Danny discovers an ancient elevator through which he visits some interesting historical characters. Soon he becomes involved in a contest to plan a backdrop to the altar of the new cathedral and a strange Turkish girl searching for an ancient painting of Our Lord (the Mandylion - rhymes with pavilion, not dandylion). Throw in an ancient Maori cloak and some mysterious trips courtesy of his guardian angel, and the result is a rather enjoyable, occasionally hair-raising, adventure story in a Catholic framework with a New Zealand setting. (There are interesting artistic sub-themes as well.) The author has included a glossary of New Zealand terms and an overview of some of the religious references. My two year old highly enjoys just hearing the words in the glossary which sound very funny to her - aniwaniwa, kohekohe, tiki, etc.

The author has a humorous writing style that should be appealing to modern readers. Leo Madigan, who has also authored a number of books about Fatima, skillfully interweaves a Catholic way of looking at things, but never at the expense of a good story. I especially like the sub-plot concerning Danny's sister Angela, who is seriously disabled. Her relationship with Danny is beautifully portrayed (they communicate with each other using their own system of sign-language, he confides in her during difficult times). Also, unlike a number of stories with crippled heroes who are cured in the end (like If All the Swords in England and The Hidden Treasure of Glaston), Angela's part of the story wraps up happily even though she is not completely cured of her malady. I appreciate this unique angle, especially for those who are dealing with such difficulties every day for the rest of their lives. There wouldn't be much hope for these much-beloved souls if happiness depended on a miraculous physical cure.

I hope you and your children (best for ages 12 and up) enjoy the story as much as I did.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

This title was donated for review by Bethlehem Books

Review Date: 
7-4-02
Reviewed by: 

The Well-Trained Mind

A Guide to Classical Education at Home
Book cover: 'The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home'
Author(s): 
Jessie Wise
Susan Wise Bauer
Copyright: 
1999
Publisher: 
W.W. Norton
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
764 pages
Review: 

Jessie Wise started homeschooling her daughter (and co-author Susan Wise Bauer) in 1973. In this book they elaborate ideas and resources for a complete classical curriculum from preschool through high school. From a Catholic standpoint, I think this book would be most useful for those who are already using Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum, but looking for additional ideas. I found the explanations of the stages of the Trivium very helpful as well as some of the ideas for types of writing assignments, lists of subject material and tidbits on scheduling and record-keeping. I also found the order in which certain materials are to be studied (particularly for History which they recommend studying in chronological fashion starting in first grade) to be more to my liking than the order proposed in Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum because I'd like to have my children studying the same topic in History at the same time. The authors had some important things to say about the problems with television and I really enjoyed (as a bit of a vindication of my own educational ideas I suppose) the story about Dr. Seuss and why he wrote The Cat in the Hat.

I would be reluctant to give this book to a mother who is already feeling overwhelmed with homeschooling or one who has just pulled her children out of a conventional school and is beginning to homeschool later in the game. Although it is not intended to be, I think it might be intimidating at this stage. Although the authors (who are not Catholic) don't fall into a number of "traps" regarding the Catholic Church that one might expect (as is clear from their segment on Religion), some of the resources (especially with regards to History) contain biases against the Catholic Church and should be used only with caution. A great deal of their recommended materials are those recommended by Greenleaf Press and/or published by Dorling Kindersley - I use materials from both of these sources, but many should be approached with caution if not avoided altogether.

I have not read the book in its entirety yet (I finished the Grammar segment and skimmed the rest). Overall, I found it worthwhile reading, but not "required reading", and some things should be taken with a grain of salt.

You can find out more about the book at the Well Trained Mind website run by co-author Susan Wise Bauer.

Perspective: 
Protestant
Review Date: 
2-26-2000
Reviewed by: 

The White Stag

Book cover: 'The White Stag'
Author(s): 
Kate Seredy
Publisher: 
Puffin Newbery Library
Number of pages: 
95 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The White Stag by Kate Seredy is the telling of the legend of the migration of the Huns and Magyars out of Asia to the great Hungarian plains. It begins with Nimrod, an ancient leader of a wandering people who are always moving west, seeking a land that had been promised to them by their gods. At a moment of despair, his people sick and starving, Nimrod receives a message from his god, Hadur, which gives him hope and brings on his death. He is told that his two sons, Hunor and Magyar, will lead his people across the mountains and that another leader will rise up in their places when they are gone. Finally he is told that a great warrior leader, Attila the Scourge, will lead the people in the final phase of their migration.

The two sons do in fact lead the people west following a mysterious white stag which seems to be leading them along. They find a good land and stay there many years but it is not the land that was foretold. While in this land, Hunor and Magyar capture and marry fairy "moonmaidens." Hunor and his wife have a son named Bendeguz, The White Eagle. Among the people a slight rift appears and some become more attached to fierce Hunor and his son and others to the more gentle Magyar. The entire tribe moves on, however, and as they leave Asia and move into Europe, they become more fierce. The are in constant battle with the people of the lands they pass and end up a plundering, warring tribe. Finally they find a place to build a stronghold between the Volga and Don Rivers. Here Bendeguz marries a woman from the peoples they have conquered and Attila is born. The tribe then splits and Bendeguz, with Attila and his followers, move further west while Magyar and his followers stay. The Huns fight on and on with Attila as their leader and become the most feared people in the west. The story ends with the fulfillment of the prophecy, the finding of the promised land, and Attila leading a festival in thanksgiving to the great god Hadur.

This story could not be considered a history of the Huns, but might be read as a supplement to a study of the times. It is as the Greek myths are to the history of the Greeks and sheds light on the religion and traditions of the ancient Huns. It is poetically and lovingly written and full of beautiful illustrations. Since it is somewhat short in length, ( 95 pages of which 39 are full page illustrations), it can be read fairly quickly.

Recommended for grade 4+

Additional notes: 

Newbery Medal Winner

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

The Wide Horizon

Author(s): 
Loula Grace Erdman
Copyright: 
1956
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Series: 
Tales of the Texas Panhandle
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
279 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The Pierce family has now lived in the Texas Panhandle for five years. Shy, insecure, fifteen-year-old Katie, who has always lived in the shadow of her confident, older, sister, Melinda, now steps to the forefront as she takes on new responsibilities when her sister marries and moves away to Amarillo and her mother, upset and worried about Grandmother’s broken hip, leaves to go back to east Texas to take care of her.

Taking over mama’s role of caring for the family is more than a new set of responsibilities for Katie as she puts on hold her dream of studying art and music. With her mother gone, Katie soon finds out just how much she knows about cooking in the kitchen. This is not the only area Katie will have to learn about. Always extremely sensitive, she now must deal with her older brothers’ teasing and the taunting of a bully at school. Oh, what to do and how to handle it!

This is a wonderful story to encourage a young girl to understand what it means to be virtuous and beautiful. Throughout the story, the author makes references to the inner beauty of a young lady’s heart, whether it is Katie’s or the other young women around her.

Katie was aware of Mr. Palmer’s look of gratitude in Annie’s direction. She remembered her own deep sense of comfort at the sight of Annie when she had first arrived this afternoon. And, remembering all these things, Katie wondered if maybe Annie didn’t have a gift of her own—the gift of making people happy.

Perhaps that was the finest gift of them all.

A woman’s beauty is not found in her wearing a bonnet to prevent her from turning brown, but much more.

While the opening chapter seems choppy and hard to follow, once the plot develops, the book is hard to put down. The plot comes to an exciting climax when a blizzard suddenly sweeps across the plains, burying Katie alone with the younger students in the one room school house. It is Katie’s resourcefulness that saves the day.

Review Date: 
11-25-2007
Reviewed by: 

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