Friday, September 23, 2016

7 Not-so-Scary Halloween Books

Are you thinking that it's a while before Halloween? You'd be surprised. Over here it's already pumpkin-this and pumpkin-that and when-can-we-carve-pumpkins. If you're trying to pick up books from the library or have them delivered to your house in time for the holiday, you might want to get on that, and here's a list to help.

One of my children is easily frightened, but also wants to participate in social events like trick-or-treating. Thus, we've spent many Halloweens searching for books that were not too scary. Here are our favorites:

This book was perfect for our needs because mouse and mole take turns frightening each other and then overcome their fears together.

Halloween Is... by Gail Gibbons.
This book talks about the origins of Halloween.

This one talks about how pumpkins are grown and about their historical and cultural use. It also mentions Halloween briefly. It goes best with the Halloween Is... book above by the same author.

(Get this one in Spanish!)
This one also talks about how pumpkins grow, but for younger children.

Who doesn't love a good (or really bad...) joke? Humor helped our kids with Halloween.

I thought the illustrations in this one would be too scary for my kids but apparently we have progressed past the mention of the word "ghost" frightening them. Whew! I love this parody of Goodnight, Moon.

No Halloween children's book list would be complete without...

AlphaOops Halloween by Alethea Kontis, one of our favorite authors!

Here's hoping your children enjoy a safe Halloween!

Like this post? Then you'll like my upcoming Halloween picture book! Here's a sneak peak of Charlie Cat.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Story Elements Classes

Earlier this month I had a great time running a class at the Lillington library for our homeschool group. We used fairy tales to discover the different elements of a story, and then we made our own as a class. Everyone had a blast!

This is our class story. If you can make my drawings out, I'll be impressed.

Then this week I took part of that lesson and used the same story-telling method to introduce our co-op class to elements of a story. They'll be using these new vocabulary words to play an awesome game, Create-a-Story, that the co-op has. As you play the game, players gather cards like "character" and on the other side of the card is a description of a character. You gather several of each type of card and once you reach the end of the board game, it's time to pick your favorite cards and write your story using an outline provided with the game. For the co-op, we divided the students into groups and each group is creating their own story. My group drew cards about pirates, treasure, and tornadoes... So much fun!

Earlier this year I also taught a class about the three-act story structure to middle and highschoolers at the Erwin library. I find the three-act structure helpful for understanding the "problem," "solution," and tension of a story on a deeper level, even when that story doesn't follow the model precisely. My favorite part during all of these classes is being privileged to talk with enthusiastic students who are very creative and excited to learn more. I'll also be doing a presentation on NaNoWriMo and encouraged my older students to look into that.

I'll be teaching more of these classes in the future. You can read about my classes here and connect with me through email or facebook.

PS. Another good tool for story telling are cubes like the Rory's Story Cubes

Friday, September 2, 2016

Review: That's a Possibility! by Bruce Goldstone

My 5-year-old is constantly asking me if XYZ can happen. Can a tornado happen where we live? Earthquakes? Can fire burn under water? What if...

The answers often center around probability, and they're questions I don't want to fudge the answer to. What if I told him that tornadoes can't happen here, and then we have to hide in our bathroom from a tornado? That would be my luck! And just try telling him "not to worry" about something. He's not too worried, actually. He likes his what-ifs and can-you-reallys. So, yes, a tornado can happen here, but it doesn't happen often.

Yes, we had a small earthquake here once (can't fudge that one!) but no, earthquakes are unlikely to destroy everything on the continent. These "buts" and "maybes" would eventually lead to him asking me the exact same question again (Send help!), perhaps looking for a more accessible answer.

Then I found this book. Tada! It walks the reader through questions and visuals like the one on the cover and introduces important terminology such as "possible" and "probable." It starts out at about my 5-year-old's level and gets a little more complicated from there, ending with a few activities you can do at home.

This book brought the concept of probability back down from the clouds, where my child lives, down to earth. At least for a few minutes.

I'm sure my 5-year-old will continue to ask (and re-ask...) the same kinds of questions every hour of every day, but now the answers and the discussions that follow can be more meaningful to him (and to me.) Now he understands that there are many things that CAN happen but likely never will happen. Like being struck by lightning. One hundred times. Yes, of course he asked me that one, too.

P.S. Fire can burn under water if it is burning magnesium. Or if it uses an oxidizer. You're welcome.