Tag Archives: homeschool

A Review of Two of the ‘Kids of Polk Street School’ Books

The Kids of the Polk Street School series is written for young readers who are eagerly beginning to stretch their reading skills to chapter books.  This is quite an exciting time of new goals for children. Each book focuses on a student in Ms. Rooney’s second grade classroom.

The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room

“Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times, in all circumstances.”  – St. Vincent de Paul

Reading level

3.2        [Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

2.1         [AR]

Interest level

Grades  3 – 5

Review and Comments

The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room, the first book in the series, introduces readers to several typical second grade students.  Richard “Beast” Best is one of the students beginning the new school year in Ms. Rooney’s class – for the second time.  Because of this, Richard has to deal with a lot of concerns before he feels comfortable in a class of younger children.  What will he tell his old classmates about why he was left back?  Why does he have to feel so big next to the other second graders?  Why does he still have baby teeth?  Why can he only read ten words? Why does he get in trouble so often? The reader understands more about Richard’s struggles through his relationships with other students who eventually support and accept him.  Inevitably, there is also an irritating student who attempts to upset Richard’s adjustment to the new school year with hurtful remarks. Continue reading A Review of Two of the ‘Kids of Polk Street School’ Books

Virtuous Actions of Mercy: A Review of ‘Boxes for Katje’

“Love has hands to help others.  It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy.  It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sights and sorrows of men. This is what love looks like.”  – St. Augustine

Reading Level

Pre K – K, 1-2      [Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grade 3.5            [AR]

Interest Level

Ages 4-8

Review and Comments

Boxes for Katje is a wonderful story and an outstanding example of actually living Jesus’ commandment, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)

This true story begins after WWII when the people of Europe are suffering deprivations of all kinds, and charities in America are working together to relieve those affected. Katje’s tale is intertwined beautifully with the seasons, the growing needs of the citizens of Holland, the expanding generosity of the citizens of the United States, and the engaging letters of two little girls. Continue reading Virtuous Actions of Mercy: A Review of ‘Boxes for Katje’

Dream it. Do it.: A Review of ‘Duck on a Bike’

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

Reading Level

PreK-2, 3-5          [Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grader K-1           [common core]

2.0                        [AR]

Review and Comments

If you are looking for an engaging and entertaining book, Duck on a Bike is a good choice.  The story is about an eager duck who decides to try his skill at riding a bike.  At first he struggles a bit, but it doesn’t take long before he is able to ride the bike all around the farm.  He passes ten farm friends along the way and greets each one with a very friendly hello.  The animals reply and then express personal observations about seeing Duck on a bike.  These remarks range from Duck being a silly duck, to a concern for his safety, and then even a bit of jealousy. Then, a surprising opportunity presents itself when the animals see eight bikes parked beside a house.  They seize the moment and ride the bikes. (Mouse has to hitch a ride with another animal of course, and the pigs happily ride a tandem bike.)  They finally understand the joy Duck experienced on his earlier ride. Continue reading Dream it. Do it.: A Review of ‘Duck on a Bike’

Revisiting Childhood Memories: A Review of ‘No, David!’

“It’s not enough to love children, it is necessary that they are aware they are loved.”–  St. John Bosco

Reading Level

K-1                        [common core]

Pre-K – Grade 3 [David Shannon website]

Pre-K – 1              [Scholastic]

Review and Comments

David Shannon’s book, No, David!, is modeled after a book he wrote and illustrated as a child.  The pictures are colorful, and the vocabulary is limited because at the time he only knew how to spell no and David.  His story allows a small glimpse into the animated life of a very active, little boy named…… David.

This version highlights familiar childhood situations like sneaking cookies and jumping on the bed during imaginative play.  While David is enthusiastically charging through his day, his mother is trying to teach him important lessons: taking care of toys, respecting the property of others, and listening to and obeying his mother. David ultimately faces consequences after his serious infraction of breaking his mother’s vase.  The main lesson he does learn is that his mother’s love is unconditional. She assures him on the last page that she still loves him even after all the challenges of the day. Continue reading Revisiting Childhood Memories: A Review of ‘No, David!’

Run and Find Out!: A Review of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”

“To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.” – St. Teresa of Avila

Reading Level

Grades 3-5    [according to Scholastic which reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently.]

5.0    [AR]

Review and Comments

Rikki-tikki-tavi is a young mongoose who is welcomed into an English family after being separated from his own family during a terrible storm.  The father seems to know a lot about mongooses, and he assures his wife and son that it is a good thing to have a mongoose close by because they kill snakes.  This proves true when Rikki-tikki saves the young son from a deadly snake soon after he arrives.  The danger for the family is not over however. Rikki-tikki e and his adopted family soon experience life-threatening encounters with a pair of deadly adversaries. Continue reading Run and Find Out!: A Review of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”

Another Door Opens: A Review of ‘Bud, Not Buddy!’

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”–  Mother Teresa

Reading Level

Grades 4-5          [common core]

Grades 3-5, 6-8 [according to Scholastic which reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grade 5                 [AR]

Interest Level

Grades 4-8          [AR]

Review and Comments

Bud, Not Buddy is a story about a ten year boy who is virtually alone in the very harsh world of the Great Depression.  Bud is living somewhere between the memories of his deceased mother and a yearning for the father he never knew.  During his search for his father, the reader is exposed to lessons about this period in history through the people Bud meets and his deepest thoughts and feelings as only a ten year old can express them. Continue reading Another Door Opens: A Review of ‘Bud, Not Buddy!’

25 Picture Books to Encourage a Love of Nature

“God wrote “I love you”—He  wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea.  He wrote his message everywhere!  Because God created everything in the world to reflect Him like a mirror—to show us what He is like, to help us to know Him, to make our hearts sing.”— Sally Lloyd-Jones, from The Jesus Storybook Bible

 This month we celebrate Easter and new life seems to be all around. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing trees blossom and birds build nests.  What is dormant is now vibrant and full of life!  It’s such a lovely time for us all to look around at nature since it is neither too hot nor too cold to be outside.  Children love this time of year and they are so observant, aren’t they?!  It is for this reason I’ve put together this list of books in which we can praise our Lord who has given us such beautiful gifts in the world around us, encourage our children to look carefully at the intricacies of what He has made, learn about people who have aided in His creative powers, and become inspired by what could happen when we make the tiniest effort to take care of His gifts for us.  Loving our planet and all that it holds means nothing if we forget who gave it to us.

I’ve divided the list into sub-sections to help break it up a bit.  Click on the picture of the book for our affiliate link!

In Praise of Nature and God’s Wonderful Creations

St. Francis sings of God’s love and all of the surrounding nature join him.  Beautifully illustrated and poetic, Tomie de Paola never disappoints.

Using text from the Old Testament, Tomie dePaola praises all of God’s creations from the sky to the earth to under the water.  It’s a celebration of nature. Continue reading 25 Picture Books to Encourage a Love of Nature

Fight Courageously: A Review of ‘The Shadow of His Wings: A Graphic Biography of Fr. Gereon Goldmann’

And of what should we be afraid? Our captain on this battlefield is Christ Jesus. We have discovered what we have to do. Christ has bound our enemies for us and weakened them that they cannot overcome us unless we so choose to let them. So we must fight courageously and mark ourselves with the sign of the most Holy Cross.”–Saint Catherine of Sienna

Interest Level

Grades 7+

Review and Comments

If there was ever a story of courage, faith, and commitment, it is the story of Father Gereon Goldmann.  His story begins with him being drafted into the loathsome SS during WWII.  As a strong German Catholic who had been in the seminary, this is a great struggle.  Father Goldmann is strong, however, and remains committed to our Lord through it all and because of this, he is able to minister to so many. Continue reading Fight Courageously: A Review of ‘The Shadow of His Wings: A Graphic Biography of Fr. Gereon Goldmann’

Unity of Scripture: A Review of ‘The End of the Fiery Sword, Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary

“Death by Eve, life by Mary” — Saint Jerome (Epistle 22)

Interest Level:  Ages 3+

Review and Comments:

Maura McKeegan illustrates how events of the Old Testament foreshadow the New Testament in this straightforward story of Adam and Eve and Jesus and Mary.  She begins in Genesis with Eve’s disobedience and explains how the Blessed Mother is the new Eve with her obedience and “yes” to God.  Then, the story continues with Adam’s temptation and betrayal prefiguring Jesus’ temptation and fulfillment of His Father’s will. The angel’s fiery sword guarding the tree of life foretells the angel sent to comfort Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Where Adam and Eve’s sin closed the gates of Heaven, Jesus opened the gates and fulfilled God’s plan of redemption. Continue reading Unity of Scripture: A Review of ‘The End of the Fiery Sword, Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary

Knock. Knock. Who’s There?: A Review of ‘Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China’

“Never trust a stranger-friend; no one knows how it will end.  As you’re pretty, so be wise; wolves may lurk in every guise.” – Charles Perrault, Little Red Riding Hood

Reading Level:  

2.6         [according to Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

K – 1      [according to common core]

3.5         [AR]

Interest Level:    K-2         [Ages  6-8]

A little house…. a basket…. a grandmother….. and a wolf.   These are all familiar elements in the fairy tale Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China. The reader will be intrigued with this version of the story while mentally checking off differences and similarities to the more familiar traditional tale.

The story begins with the customary visit to Grandmother, but this time it is the mother who visits Grandmother while her three children stay home.  As any concerned mother, she warns them to keep the door locked because she will be gone overnight.  This of course is a clue to the discerning reader that they may not follow her instructions and that disobedience will put them in great danger. Continue reading Knock. Knock. Who’s There?: A Review of ‘Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China’