Give Your Child the World: Week 8 – Australia, Oceania, & Polar Regions

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See this post for an explanation of this Summer Book Club. Check out the Australia, Oceania, and Polar Regions post at Simple Homeschool, for free printables and other ideas.


Our final week of our summer book club! This section seemed a little catch-all, going from the frigid polar areas to the warm Australia. :-) So I tried to choose books from all the different regions. And of course, as soon as I saw one of the books was titled “Elizabeth”, I knew I had to get that one. :-) I’m so glad our library had it!

(All italic descriptions from, and asterisks mark my own thoughts on the book.)

elizabethqueenoftheseasElizabeth, Queen of the Seas
by Lynne Cox

Here is the incredible story of Elizabeth, a real-life elephant seal who made her home in the Avon River in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. When Elizabeth decides to stretch out across a two-lane road, the citizens worry she might get hurt or cause traffic accidents, so a group of volunteers tows her out to sea. But Elizabeth swims all the way back to Christchurch. The volunteers catch her again and again—each time towing her farther, even hundreds of miles away—but, still, Elizabeth finds her way back home.

** We loved this book, and it was especially fun to see Elizabeth turn every time I read “Elizabeth!” The girls thought the elephant seal was really cute (the illustrated one, that is!). They loved that it was a true story.

overinaustraliaOver in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under
by Marianne Berkes

In the Down Under continent, baby wallabies learn to hop, brolgas learn to dance, and emus learn to zig-zag and children will want to hop, dance, and zig-zag right along with the amazing animals of Australia. As with all of Marianne Berkes award-winning Over books, children will also want to sing, clap and count to the rhyme of Over in the Meadow as they learn about wallabies, koalas, wombats, and more. What an easy, fun way to learn about these endearing, unique Australian animals! Jill Dubin’s cut-paper illustrations add to the fun.

** This book was so much fun to read! I had “Over in the Meadow” when I was growing up, which is in a similar cadence. We talked about how Australia is an island and so they have many unique animals. The book also has a lot of information in the end about the animals for people wanting to learn more, and a map of Australia showing the general regions and where the animals in the book are found. I also loved the collage illustrations. I think this book might be one I actually buy.

baltoThe Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto
by Natalie Standiford

It is one of the worst storms ever – the snow has not stopped for days and it is 30 degrees below zero. But somehow Balto must get through. He is the lead dog of his sled team. And he is carrying medicine to sick children miles away in Nome, Alaska. He is their only hope. Can Balto find his way through the terrible storm? Find out in this exciting true story!

** This is one of the books we’ll be reading this year in school, but at their request I went ahead and read it to them anyway. What an awesome story! I grew up reading this book a lot, and it never gets old. The idea of so much snow that you need a sled dog to get anywhere is beyond our comprehension, living in the Southeast US. As a side note, for adults who want to know more about the true story of the Nome Serum Run, I highly recommend the Stuff You Missed in History podcast episode on the topic. (I love that podcast! It’s a great one! You can listen from your computer if you don’t have a podcast player on your phone.)

antarcicanticsAntarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems
by Judy Sierra

Dive, swim, and glide with this delightful pack of penguins as they slip and slide through their icy world.
Judy Sierra, Jose Aruego, and Ariane Dewey invite you into the world of an Emperor penguin family and their wild, slip-sliding, rhyming fun.

** As I suspected, Caroline especially enjoyed these fun poems of penguin life. (She’s really into penguins currently.) The books starts with the birth of a baby penguin and goes through the life of a penguin. I could have done without the “Regurgitate” poem though. ;-) It does approach things realistically, talking about predators and dangers.

mrpopperspenguinsMr. Popper’s Penguins
by Richard Atwater

A classic of American humor, the adventures of a house painter and his brood of high-stepping penguins have delighted children for generations. “Here is a book to read aloud in groups of all ages. There is not an extra or misplaced word in the whole story.”–The Horn Book. Newberry Honor Book.

** This is another book we’re scheduled to read in school this year, so I didn’t actually read it to them this week. However, I read this multiple times growing up and it was one of my favorites. Such a charming story about a man who adopts some penguins. I’m a little surprised to see it on the list for Give Your Child the World, since it doesn’t actually take place outside the US, but I guess it talks a lot about what kind of conditions are in Antarctica, so Mr. Popper can attempt to recreate them for his penguins. Either way, it’s a fun story and I’m so excited to share it with my kids!

Give Your Child the World: Week 7 – Latin America

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See this post for an explanation of this Summer Book Club. Check out the Latin America post at Simple Homeschool, for free printables and other ideas.


Hooray, Latin America! This is my favorite region, for obvious reasons. :) I love sharing my background with my kids. I wish I could have done a little more to celebrate the week in other ways, but we started school full-time this week and I’ve been distracted. Best intentions and all that. ;)

(All italic descriptions from, and asterisks mark my own thoughts on the book.)

poinsettiaMiracle of the Poinsettia
by Brian Cavanaugh T.O.R.

Recounts the Mexican legend of how the poinsettia became a Christmas flower when a poor girl, with no other gift for the Christ Child, brought an armful of plants to the Nativity scene.

** This book is one we own for our 25 days of Christmas books that I have been collecting over the past few years. (It’s not actually on Jamie’s list – she lists “The Legend of the Poinsettia” and I thought it was the same book until I sat down to write this post.) However, we do enjoy this book too. It’s written in both Spanish and English, and I love sharing with my girls their Mexican heritage.

pio-peep¡Pío Peep!: Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes
by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, English Adaptations Alice Schertle

Here is a groundbreaking bilingual collection of traditional rhymes that celebrates childhood and Spanish and Latin American heritage. From playing dress up to making tortillas, and from rising at daybreak to falling asleep, these joyful rhymes are sure to delight young readers.

** We really enjoyed this book. I first started reading it in Spanish, but it was annoying me that the Spanish and English versions didn’t match, so I switched to just English. (That, and my voice is currently affected by a cold so I needed to not go overboard with reading outloud!) I really loved the illustrations, though – nursery rhymes that every child could relate to, but the pictures are very Latino and I love it.

thepotthatjuanbuiltThe Pot that Juan Built
by Nancy Andrews-Goebel

Quezada creates stunning pots in the traditional style of the Casas Grandes people, including using human hair to make brushes and cow dung to feed the fire. This real-life story is written in the form of “The House That Jack Built,” and relays how Juan’s pioneering work has changed a poor village into a prosperous community of world-class artists.

** This book is one of those double story books. The bigger text on one side of the page is a simpler story for younger kids, and the smaller text on the opposite page tells a longer, more detailed story for older kids. We actually only read the shorter one because of my voice, but I hope to read the longer one to Savannah later. I liked the rhythm of the words, and the building of the story so that kids can get a sense of what goes into pot-making. I’m glad we read this one.

moonropeMoon Rope/Un lazo a la luna
by Lois Ehlert

Fox wants to go to the moon. Mole does not–at least not until he hears about the huge worms waiting up there for him to eat. So the two of them set off on their adventure, with a little help from a rope of grass and their friends the birds. The bilingual text and bold art showcase Lois Ehlert at her captivating best.

** This book was actually given to me a very long time ago (thank you, Emily!) because it is a Peruvian story. It has bilingual text, and I’ve read both the Spanish and the English to the girls many times over the years. If you’re a new Spanish speaker wanting to practice, this is a great option because the story and words are on the simpler side. The artwork reminds me of ancient Peruvian civilizations. I can’t say the story itself is my favorite (it’s a little too unrealistic for me – I know, I know, says the girl who loves watching the adventures of a time-traveling man with two hearts whose spaceship is a blue phone box), but I of course always love ties to Peru.

newshoesforsilviaNew Shoes for Silvia
by Johanna Hurwitz

Silvia can’t wait to try on her present from Tia Rosita: new shoes as red as the inside of a watermelon. The shoes are too big for Silvia to wear — but that doesn’t stop her from [finding] lots of ways to enjoy them while she waits for her feet to grow!

** This book was Savannah’s pick, and she really loved it. A sweet story of a little girl who got new shoes and has to wait until they fit. Our favorite part is that her mother has a new baby girl throughout the course of the story, and illustrations are just darling. (We love babies here. ;) ) I liked how this book used the natural story and images to show daily life for this little girl in Mexico (“many years ago”). It was very fun and creative!

Give Your Child the World: Week 6 – Asia

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See this post for an explanation of this Summer Book Club. Check out the Asia post at Simple Homeschool, for free printables and other ideas.


This past week we read about Asia! (My girls didn’t feel very cooperative for the picture, haha!) I am so behind on this, but getting closer! ;-) This post is going to be shorter I think because I need to just finish it… it’s been sitting here half a week and I’ve just not had the motivation or time to finish it.

(All italic descriptions from, and asterisks mark my own thoughts on the book.)

papercraneThe Paper Crane
by Molly Bang

Business returns to a once-prosperous restaurant when a mysterious stranger pays for his meal with a magical paper crane that comes alive and dances. The Paper Crane is illustrated with cut-paper collages and paintings. It is a wonderful book to use with children learning about patterns in storytelling.

** This wasn’t an obviously Japanese story, though it does feature origami. But, we enjoyed the story nonetheless. I also really liked the artwork. I can’t say it was my favorite book, but the girls aren’t as bothered by stories where nothing really happens. ;-)

monkeycrocodileThe Monkey and the Crocodile: A Jataka Tale from India
by Paul Galdone

Twice the clever little monkey foils the attempts of the crocodile to capture him.

** Caroline absolutely adored this book. She spotted it when I checked it out from the library, and carried it around for several days before we read it. In fact, you can see in the picture at the top of this post that she didn’t even want to pose with the book – she just wanted to read it. Ha! She loved the monkeys and had me read it to her twice in a row, cracking up about the silly monkey and silly crocodile. So, I guess it was a hit. :-)

silentlotusSilent Lotus
by Jeanne M. Lee

Although unable to speak or hear, lovely Lotus learns to perform the intricate story dances of the Cambodian court ballet.

** This story is about a little deaf girl who is lonely because she is unable to communicate with the other children. Her parents take her to the Cambodian court, and the little girl learns the art of expressing herself through dance. It’s a cool story about disabilities and also about traditional dances. My girls loved the pretty costume that Lotus wears at the end.

rubyswishRuby’s Wish
by Shirin Yim Bridges

Ruby is unlike most little girls in old China. Instead of aspiring to get married, Ruby is determined to attend university when she grows up, just like the boys in her family. Based upon the inspirational story of the author’s grandmother and accompanied by richly detailed illustrations, Ruby’s Wish is an engaging portrait of a young girl who’s full of ambition and the family who rewards her hard work and courage.

** I really liked this story, and I always appreciate chances to show my girls how being able to get an education and a career, if they want, is not always something that women have been able to do. Savannah doesn’t seem to quite understand this concept, but I am sure she will someday. The girls did enjoy seeing the Chinese calligraphy, which reminded them of the Baghdad calligraphy we read about last week.

Give Your Child the World: Week 5 – Middle East

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See this post for an explanation of this Summer Book Club. Check out the Middle East post at Simple Homeschool, for free printables and other ideas.


I’m behind again. :) Week 5 was actually last week, and we are still working our way through the books. The Middle East is a tough area of the world, and Jamie Martin (the author) chose to only include books on her list starting at age 6. (Instead of age 4, like the other regions.) Fortunately, Savannah seemed to take mentions of bombs and soldiers in stride, but I could see caution being warranted for a more sensitive child. Also, another heads up – many of these books reference Islam. This was a great way to jumpstart a discussion with Savannah about it (we’ve already talked about not everyone believes in Jesus, and how some people have their own gods and religions), but I wanted to mention it in case anyone else is bothered by that.

(All italic descriptions from, and asterisks mark my own thoughts on the book.)

listentothewindListen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea
by Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson stumbled, lost and delirious, into a remote Himalayan village after a failed climb up K2. The villagers saved his life, and he vowed to return and build them a school. The remarkable story of his promise kept is now perfect for reading aloud. Told in the voice of Korphe’s children, this story illuminates the humanity and culture of a relevant and distant part of the world in gorgeous collage, while sharing a riveting example of how one person can change thousands of lives.

** We loved the artwork in this book – it’s done collage style, so very creative. I also really liked the story. It didn’t feel like a “white man savior!” type, but rather a story of how a village community comes together to build a school. We talked about high mountains and remote villages, which is something we haven’t really talked about much.

egyptiancinderellaThe Egyptian Cinderella
by Shirley Climo

Poor Rhodopis! She has nothing – no mother or father, and no friends. She is a slave, from the far-off country of Greece. Only the beautiful rose-red slippers her master gives her can make Rhodopis smile. So when a falcon swoops down and snatches one of the slippers away, Rhodipis is heartbroken. For how is she to know that the slipper will land in the lap of the great Pharoah himself? And who would ever guess that the Pharoah has promised to find the slipper’s owner and make her queen of all Egypt?

** Savannah loved the Cinderella aspect of this story! This an old story that is a blend of truth and legend. The illustrations are reminiscent of ancient Egyptian art. We didn’t go very deep with it, but you could definitely turn it into a lesson of the value of people despite their physical appearance or social station.

sittiandthecatsSitti and the Cats: A Tale of Friendship
by Sally Bahous Allen

A beautiful Palestinian folktale teaches the golden rule.

** I accidentally got a little overzealous with putting library books on hold for this week and probably checked out too many. ;-) I added this one to the hold queue because it was about cats, of course. It’s a really sweet story of an old woman who shows kindness to a little cat in her time of need, and in return the cat blesses her. However, full disclosure, I’m probably not going to read this one to my kids. It’s one of the longer stories and I don’t want to get even further behind. It’s good to know our library has it, though – I will likely check it out at another time!

silentmusicSilent Music: A Story of Baghdad
by James Rumford

Like other children living in Baghdad, Ali loves soccer, music and dancing, but most of all, he loves the ancient art of calligraphy. When bombs begin to fall on his city, Ali turns to his pen, writing sweeping and gliding words to the silent music that drowns out the war all around him. Gorgeously illustrated with collage, pencil and charcoal drawings and, of course, exquisite calligraphy, this timely and yet universal story celebrates art and history but also offers young children a way to understand all they see and hear on the news.

** I really loved this book! It was a really cool look at calligraphy and how writing in other countries can look different. Savannah was fascinated by that, and I think it blew her mind that some languages read right to left, ha. I loved how this book was celebrating the beauty of the language while still acknowledging the realities of the turbulence of the region.

nasreensecretschoolNasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan
by Jeanette Winter

Young Nasreen has not spoken a word to anyone since her parents disappeared. In despair, her grandmother risks everything to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls. Will a devoted teacher, a new friend, and the worlds she discovers in books be enough to draw Nasreen out of her shell of sadness? Based on a true story from Afghanistan, this inspiring book will touch readers deeply as it affirms both the life-changing power of education and the healing power of love.

** Heads up, this book is not for the sensitive child. It starts with a young girl, Nasreen, living in Afghanistan whose father was taken by Taliban soldiers, and her mother disappears looking for him. It is told from the perspective of Nasreen’s grandmother who desires more for her granddaughter. She finds a secret school for Nasreen where she will be able to learn, something that is forbidden for girls. The story doesn’t have a happy feel-good ending, but it does end with hope that Nasreen will have more opportunities for her thanks to her school. I thought the story was sobering, and such a sad look at how oppression can affect a whole culture, and also the bravery of people who seek to educate themselves anyway. I hope my girls realize that their education is a gift that is denied to many. I think the full depths of this story is lost to Savannah, but I am glad for the chance to talk about this with her right now.

Give Your Child the World: Week 4 – North America

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See this post for an explanation of this Summer Book Club. Follow week 4’s post at Simple Homeschool.


As I mentioned in my last post, I’m a bit behind due to being out of town. I figured this week (North America) is probably a good one to not spend as much time on. However, I would have liked to spend some time on the minorities of North America – we’ll have to make sure we revisit that in the future.

(All italic descriptions from, and asterisks mark my own thoughts on the book.)

littlehouseLittle House in the Big Woods
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pioneer life is sometimes hard for the family, since they must grow or catch all their own food as they get ready for the cold winter. But it is also exciting as Laura and her family celebrate Christmas with homemade toys and treats, do the spring planting, bring in the harvest, and make their first trip into town. And every night they are safe and warm in their little house, with the happy sound of Pa’s fiddle sending Laura and her sisters off to sleep.

And so begins Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved story of a pioneer girl and her family. The nine Little House books have been cherished by generations of readers as both a unique glimpse into America’s frontier history and a heartwarming, unforgettable story.

** We actually read this book a few months ago as part of our curriculum this year. It’s still one of my favorite series. It’s such a great look at frontier life in the mid 1800s, and also in homesteading. It opened some great conversations about where our food comes from; about farming and butchering, and how we keep things during the winter. It really makes you realize how easy we have it in regards to food! Savannah really enjoyed the book (especially the fact that it’s about three sisters!) and is bugging me to read the next one. Hopefully soon. :-)

MakeWayforDucklingsMake Way for Ducklings
by Robert McCloskey

Mrs. Mallard was sure that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens would be a perfect place for her and her eight ducklings to live. The problem was how to get them there through the busy streets of Boston. But with a little help from the Boston police, Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack arive safely at their new home. This brilliantly illustrated, amusingly observed tale of Mallards on the move has won the hearts of generations of readers.

** This book isn’t in the “Give Your Child the World” book, but it fit with the theme and we were just visiting Boston with the kids so I’m including it. :-) I grew up listening to this story, because it’s one of my mom’s favorites. I have really loved passing on the love to my kids. It’s a short but really sweet story set in Boston of a mama duck who braves cars and bikes to cross the streets with her 8 ducklings in toe. The kind Boston policemen stopped traffic for her to make sure no ducklings were harmed as they made their way to Boston’s Public Gardens. Of course, Robert McCloskey’s illustrations make the story, in my opinion. Now, there are statues of Mrs. Mallard and her 8 ducklings in the Public Gardens that are delightful to visit. We first visited the “Make Way for Ducklings” statue with them 3 years ago, when Savannah was 4 and Caroline was 1.

Make way for ducklings!

This year we visited with all three kids and they had a great time. We actually sat on the grass in the Public Garden for a while as we had a snack and watched the swan boats and the ducks. It was so pleasant – the weather was wonderful. If I had remembered the route Mrs. Mallard had taken with her ducklings, I would have tried to recreate that, but it didn’t occur to me. Perhaps next time. :-)

Make way for ducklings!

Elizabeth on the ducklings

onemorninginmaineOne Morning in Maine
by Robert McCloskey

Today is a special day for Sal because she gets to go to Buck’s Harbor with her dad. But when she wakes up to brush her teeth with her baby sister, she discovers something shocking… Her tooth is loose! And that’s just the start of a huge day!

** This book is on the booklist, and fit well with “Make Way for Ducklings” and spending a week at the beach. I actually am not sure I have ever read this one. Savannah enjoyed the fact that Sal has a loose tooth just like her, and we all enjoyed the fact that her little sister Jane looked to be about Elizabeth’s age. We enjoyed learning a little more about clams and mussels, and taking a boat to the harbor. And again, I just love Robert McCloskey’s illustrations – they make the books, in my opinion. Definitely one we’ll be reading again.

Reflections on this week: While these books are good and I’m glad I shared them with my girls, they were more focused on history rather than on a culture that is different from our own. The point of this book club is to expand my girls’ horizons and introduce them to other countries and cultures. I do think it’s important to show them how North America isn’t just white people in the United States. There are many suggestions in the booklist, so I do think it’s important I touch on those as well.