Wednesday, August 18, 2021

New Nonfiction For Our Homeschool Library

I often tell people that I feel justified in owning a lot of books because as a homeschooler, our home library is also our school library. Over the past few weeks, I've received review copies of a bunch of new books to support our homeschooling endeavors, and I'm excited to start the new school year with them on our shelves. Here's a list of what we have recently acquired. 


The Book of Labyrinths and Mazes by Silke Vry and Finn Dean (Prestel Publishing,  9/14/2021) is a visually beautiful exploration of mazes from a variety of viewpoints. From the figurative mazes of internet searches and virus contact tracing, to real historical labyrinths and mazes in the real world today, to instructions for creating mazes, this book is about as comprehensive a title on this subject as any child could hope to find. My 5-year-old will be learning about Theseus and the Minotaur this coming school year, so this is a definite potential tie-in for her, but I actually think my 7-year-old, who loves puzzles and challenges, is going to love this book the most. It has beautiful pictures and lots of detailed information - a perfect combination.


Fourteen Monkeys by Melissa Stewart and Steve Jenkins (Beach Lane Books, 7/6/2021) arrived on the same day that my 3-year-old worked on her rainforest themed Koala Crate so that was an unexpectedly nice tie-in. Monkeys are also a favorite of our whole family so a book that introduces fourteen different species is the perfect fit for us. This book also appeals to me as a mom who frequently reads aloud to multiple ages. The main rhyming text of the story is quick and short for my little ones, but there are tons of facts about each monkey to satisfy the curiosity of my older kids. We also love Steve Jenkins and my oldest daughter immediately recognized him as "the same guy who did Actual Size." For some people, this might be too much information about monkeys; not so for the Fitzgeralds.


Barn at Night by Michelle Houts and Jen Betton (Feeding Minds Press, 9/14/2021) is a beautifully illustrated real-life look at what goes on in a barn in the middle of the night. The setting is winter and the illustrations do a wonderful job of making the reader really feel the cold and understand the feeling of being up long before everyone else in order to look after farm animals. We have quite a few books for introducing farm animals and the sounds they make, but this one adds some new layers of understanding to my city kids' image of what farm life is like. The rhyming text is perfect for my 3-year-old but I suspect everyone will want to hear it. 


Australian Baby Animals by FranĂ© Lessac (Candlewick, 8/17/2021) is another preschool-friendly animal-centric title. The cover put all of us immediately in mind of Can You Cuddle Like a Koala? by John Butler, but this book has much more of a focus on the true behaviors of these creatures. Bold colors on solid backgrounds bring each animal to life in a visually engaging way and by selecting just one or two facts per page the author has made the book accessible to even the youngest picture book listeners. We haven't done any in-depth study on Australia yet, but if and when interest arises, we're ready.


North and South: A Tale of Two Hemispheres by Sandra Morris (Candlewick, 7/6/2021) not only demonstrates the opposite seasons of the two halves of our world, but it really gets into the details of how things are different in the northern and southern hemispheres. This book is just teeming with information: maps, plant life, animals, weather details, information about the conservation of threatened species and their most significant dangers, lifelike illustrations of each species mentioned, and even a list for further reading. The seasons and rotation of the earth are a key topic in our science curriculum, and this book will be a great resource for diving into that subject beyond just the basics.


Is There Life on Your Nose? Meet the Microbes by Christian Bortslap (Prestel Publishing, 9/7/2021) is another in-depth look at a subject of much interest to my kids: those invisible creatures that can do everything from digest our food to infect us with a virus. This book does a great job of making sure not to suggest that all microbes cause problems. Instead the focus is mainly on the fascination one might feel about these microscopic organisms. The main text of the book is pretty straightforward and easy to grasp but I love that there is also some back matter to elaborate on any questions that might arise. This will be a really fun addition to our health curriculum.


Finally, The Weather Pop-Up Book by Maike Biederstaedt (Prestel Publishing, 9/7/2021) is a gorgeous book to look at, and it also helps to explain different weather phenomenon that occur in our world. Each of the pop-up illustrations is a unique and eye-catching depiction of a type of weather and the text does a great job of condensing the important information about each type into just a few clear sentences. The last section of the book talks a lot about climate change, which isn't a topic my kids are really studying at this point, but what is included here is not as biased and alarmist as it might be, and I'm thankful for that.  


Bonus! We were also fortunate enough to receive a set of Mad Libs Reading workbooks. Despite the reputation of Mad Libs for silliness, these workbooks are actually pretty serious about teaching phonics, grammar, spelling, comprehension and vocabulary. We were sent books for Grades 1, 2, 3, and 4, and I think I'll be using grades 1 and 2 with my 5-year-old and 3 and 4 with my 7-year-old to review things we've covered in the past and to fill in any gaps where we haven't discusses a particular aspect of the English language yet. Each page at each level provides a fill-in story and a chart of parts of speech to choose from in order to reinforce the concept being taught. These exercises are interactive and low-pressure, which will hopefully make it easy for the girls to have fun with language. 

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