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Hard Copy Picture Books or Digital E-Books? That Is the Question.

by Miriam Downey 27. September 2012 07:58

The library of FWU is a repository of classic books that can be found online or in e-book format. Many children's picture books, however, are not available online either free or for purchase. As a librarian and a grandmother, I highly recommend that picture books be read to and with your children in hard copy format rather than as an e-book.

First, on an e-book, only one page can be shown at a time. In many picture books, the pictures are spread across both pages. Some of the context will be missing if the child can't see both pages, and in picture books, much of the context comes from the pictures. Then, there is the issue of how to hold the device so that both parent and child can see the entire page. I would also argue that it might be harder to cuddle together with a device rather than a hard-copy book.

My feeling is that sitting on the couch reading a book is one of the most comforting and enlightening things a parent can do with a child. My daughter is currently reading A Child's Garden of Verse by Robert Lewis Stevenson to her toddler daughter every evening before bed. The interesting thing to me is that there are no pictures--it is a very old edition of the book. But every evening as they sit in the rocking chair before bed, Adela is lulled by the words, the rhyme, and the cadence of the words in the poetry.


Recent research would back up my feelings about picture book reading. "Print books are preferred over e-books by parents as well as children when they read together, according to a new study from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop that found that 89.9% of iPad owners read 'mostly print books and some e-books' with their children, 7.5% read both formats equally with their children, and 2.7% read 'mostly or exclusively' e-books." These statistics appeared in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. More significantly, fewer than 10% of children liked to read e-books better. E-books may be valuable when a child wants to hear or read a story and a parent is not available to share the time with the child--like when a child is in the car or a parent is cooking supper. The study suggested that e-books may serve best as supplements to a child's literary development.

I would be remiss as a librarian if I did not suggest that your local library may be the best source of picture books for your child. At the library, your children can choose whatever books they want to support whatever interest they are currently exploring. The library will have books for the whole family, and probably nothing encourages reading for a child more than seeing a parent reading.

Some of the best picture book authors have not allowed their books to be remade in e-book format. Although Green Eggs and Ham, the classic children's book by Dr. Seuss is available on compact disk, it has not been released as an e-book, and neither have Where the Wild Things Are or Polar Express. These books have to be read in hard copy, and you certainly wouldn't want your child to miss those classics.

Reading together is one of life's great pleasures and encourages lifelong literary skills. Read a picture book with your child today!

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Blog | English

A New School Year: A New Look at the Library

by Miriam Downey 13. September 2012 07:11

When I began this blog a year ago, I introduced the library at Free World U with some comments about the kinds of books in our virtual library and where they could be found. I thought it might be helpful at the beginning of another school year to remind us all about where the suggested library books are on the FWU website.

Over the past year, I have added books in two kinds to the library--books that can be found on the Internet and books that can be purchased or found at your local library. The two categories are Online Books and Other Great Books. The books that will be found online are primarily the classics. Copyrights generally last for 75 years. That means that if your eight grader needs to read Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief, which was published in 2006, he/she is most likely not going to find it on the Internet. If it can be found, it is probably a pilfered or pirated copy of the book, and it will be taken down from the Internet as soon as it is discovered by the author or publisher. You can buy the paperback at the bookstore, purchase the online version, or visit your local library to check it out.


On the other hand, if your child needs to read Aesop's Fables or Anne of Green Gables, both of these books are available online since the copyrights have expired, and the books are in the public domain. Those classic books can be read online from Project Gutenberg or downloaded free to your computer, Nook, Kindle, or other device. You can find more information about downloading free books on my blog posting from last February, which can be found here.

The other part of the library website includes Research Resources, a listing of websites that can help students with research questions and includes links to the websites. Like the library books, this resource is fluid, and websites are added and subtracted as necessary.

I welcome your comments and your questions. As the librarian, I am here to help with book questions, comments about blog postings, and references for research. I have had 30 years of experience in K-12 libraries, and I love to be of help to the students and parents of Free World U.

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What One Book?

by Miriam Downey 24. August 2012 07:06

I begin this blog posting with a fair amount of fear and trepidation. I recently watched my 13-year-old grandson struggle through his 8th grade summer reading list, which included Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, Watership Down by Richard Adams, and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Watership Down was his favorite. My other teenage grandson is reading a book about Malcolm X for his summer reading. He is visiting this week and is supposed to be reading two chapters every day. He rebels against it every day, but when he gets into it, he becomes totally engrossed. He did tell me, however, that the best book he had to read was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Unless your kids are voracious readers, there can be a fair amount of coaxing needed to get them to read the things they need to read to be well educated. And in the age of increased visual stimulation, sitting down and reading is a difficult task for jittery teenagers.

Why then require a student to read a book? My feeling is that there is a group of books that every well-educated person should be exposed to . . . whether they like it or not! I generally am an advocate of readers choosing what they want to read, but there are a few books that readers will always remember, and these are the books that will come up again and again in reading, discussions, sermons, and lectures for the rest of their lives. Knowing about these books is called cultural literacy.


I polled my friend Gayle, a high school English teacher, about what she considered the most important books for high school students to read. She suggested: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare for 9th grade; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for 10th grade; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for 11th grade; and Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger for 12th grade. I thought her advice was sound.

I might suggest that one of the good things about reading a book is talking about it. My daughter-in-law is reading the summer reading books along with her son and then having discussions with him about the books. This is a wonderful way to help young people relate to the books they are reading.

The following is a list of books that are discussed in FWU's English and Language Arts curriculum for high school. These are some of the books that I would include on my list of the books that everyone should read. Remember, please, that these are only recommendations. Please share your ideas about books that every teenager should read in the comments section along with the reason why you think your book should be included.

I have also included movie versions of the books. It is fun to compare the movie to the book after you have read the book.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. (Many feel that the best and most faithful version was made in 1968).

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Movie version 1974 is faithful to the book. There is a new movie version coming out in 2013.)

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. (There are two films--1963 and 1990. Many think the 1963 version is the best.)

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. (Movie version 1998. The musical version of the story is coming out as a movie at the end of 2012.)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. (The classic film version is 1946. There is a new film version soon to be released.)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. (The 2011 film version is a good one.)

To this list: I would include as necessary reading:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. (There is only one. It was made in 1962. It is a must-see movie.)

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. (1951 movie version.)

1984 by George Orwell. (There is a version made in 1984, but a new version is coming out next year.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. (Film 1973.)

The Odyssey by Homer. (Classic film version 1997. The 1955 move Ulysses is a literate version as well. For fun you might watch O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000), which is a comedy retelling of the Odyssey story.)

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. (Salinger never gave permission for a movie to be made.)

Add your opinions to this discussion.



by Miriam Downey 20. August 2012 07:57


The boy and his father were riding home from Boy Scout camp. It was a long ride, and both were tired. After a while, the boy said to his father, "If it's okay with you, I'm just going to sit her and daydream for a while."

This story comes from an editorial in the Wall Street Journal about the benefits of daydreaming. The author, Danny Heitman, suggests that like his son, everyone needs to drift off into daydreaming once in a  while, and summer is the perfect time for this activity.

It is probably essential to a child's brain development that he be allowed time to just daydream; time that isn't regimented or regulated or entertained. Playing on the beach or the sand box, sitting and rocking on the front porch, swinging in the hammock, hiding out in a tree house.

In my family, after a long day of play at the cottage, everyone gathers at the beach to watch the sunset. It is a magical, mystical time where everyone is quiet, lost in his or her own thoughts--daydreaming or sunset dreaming. On a warm summer evening, the children like to walk into the reflection of the sunset in the water. You probably had those daydreaming moments yourself as a child.

While the books I am recommending this week aren't all about daydreaming, they evoke the quiet kind of moments when children can dream and discover themselves. As Heitman says in his article: "A daydream is a stolen pleasure--a moment or two pleasantly robbed from some more obviously useful task as the brain leaps a fence, goes adventuring and, with any luck, returns to active duty before anyone knows it's been AWOL.

The following books are either available online or at your local library. Enjoy them and encourage your child's daydreaming.

Picture Books

One morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey. This is a classic book about a little girl and her lost tooth and a wonderful summer day.

Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey. All the wonderful summer days. Finding beauty and interest in nearly everything.

What Can You Do with a Rebozo by Carmen Tafolla. A child plays with a rebozo and shows all the many things that can be done with that scarf. An imagination at work.

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold. A little city girl and her dream adventure.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. Harold Creates a dream world with his crayon.

The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse. A little boy chases a red balloon all over Paris. Also a wonderful short movie.

One Sunday Morning by Yumi Heo. A boy and his father spend the day in the city park.

Boy on the Brink by David McPhail. Waking adventures and dreams by a masterful author.


Chapter Books and Novels

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Jo, one of four sisters, is the epitome of a dreamer with her nose always in a book.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Orphaned Mary Lennox discovers a secret garden and brings it back to life.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. The heroine in this classic book about life in Brooklyn in the 1910s is a reader and a dreamer.

Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. Danny has a magical life living in a gypsy caravan.

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. Newbery Prize book. Leigh Botts is a lonely boy who pours out his life in letters to Mr. Henshaw, his favorite author.

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan. This is a biography of Pablo Neruda, the great Chilean poet. He was a dreamer whose creative dreams turned into great poetry.

Dreams by Day, Dreams by Night: An anthology of Poems and Photographs by Mondo. Beloved poems with eye-catching photographs.

The Dream Stealer by Sid Fleischman. A nightmare capturing Dream Stealer starts collecting happy Dreams.

Classic Adult Books About Dreamers

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber

 Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

 Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in reverie.

Henry David Thoreau.



A Summer Full of Imagination

by Miriam Downey 5. July 2012 10:56

When my son was about 12, he told me one "boring" summer afternoon that he wanted to make an "imagination cake." I told him that he could experiment in the kitchen as long as he cleaned up after himself. Of course, the product that came out of the oven didn't look anything like a cake because he had used some of his favorites like peanut butter and catsup but had used no flour or eggs or leavening agent. After I explained to him about how a cake had to have all the previously mentioned things, he and I baked a real cake together. It was a good experience for us both; he got to use his imagination, and I got to teach a cooking skill.

Summer is a great time for children's imaginations to run wild. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (May 23, 2012) discusses this very topic. Tinkerers Unite! How Parents Enable Kids' Creativity talks about how having time to "mess around" may be an extremely valuable experience for children by allowing them time for unstructured, hands-on creativity. The family in the story kept a box of junk that the children could use to make whatever they wanted.

The article suggests that even though Legos and other toys that can be purchased can encourage a lot of hands-on play, some of the best play comes when the play equipment has to be scavenged and repurposed. The article suggested that telling a child that you won't purchase some big single-purpose item may encourage a creative solution to the problem. Following the article, readers expressed opinions on the article. One anonymous reader said: "As a society, we've transformed childhood from a time of exploration and imagination into a time of consumerism and staring. It's critical that we parents limit screen time and require our young people to come up with their own activities, ideas and plans, if we are to support a future society in which people know how to fix, build, and create."

The problem with massive amounts of creative play is massive amounts of chaos in the house and yard that has to be cleaned up. I can offer no solution for that, but I can offer some books that will help guide your child's creative efforts. The following lists of books are about sewing, cooking, building, technology, putting on shows, etc. Most will be available at your public library. Any one of these books can inspire a summer's worth of tinkering.

I must say in closing that the same son who experimented with cake baking and other messy, messy endeavors as a child is now a toy designer and inventor. Some of his creations may be in your playroom or your game closet. It is satisfying as a mother to know that all the chaos and cleanup amounted to something!

The Way Things Work or The New Way Things Work by David McCaulay. These classic books are a tinkerer's guide to creation. Everything you would ever want to know about how things work.

The Way Science Works by DK Publishing. All the secrets of science.

Gizmos and Gadgets: Creating Science Contraptions that Work and Knowing Why by Jull Frankel Hauser. Perfect for making major messes!

Kids and Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors by Susan Casey. Easy-to-follow instructions for turning ideas into realities.

New Junior Cookbook by Better Homes and Gardens. This cookbook is appropriate for even the youngest cooks, and the recipes are appealing to older children as well. There are lots of cookbooks for children available. Your own favorites may be a child's best source of recipes, however.

Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love by Amie Plumley and Andria Lisle. These projects look really cute and fun. They also use material scraps, which makes for fun for most children.

Theatre for Young Audiences: 20 Great Plays for Children by Coleman A. Jennings. Some original plays and some adaptations that children can act out and plan the production of.

On Stage: Theatre Games and Activities for Kids by Lisa Barry-Winters. More fun in putting on a show.

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English | Learning

Going on a road trip? Listen to a book.

by Miriam Downey 11. June 2012 11:38

When my daughter was in middle school, we frequently drove from Michigan to New York and Minnesota to visit relatives. Both were very long trips for me as the driver and her as the rider. I remembered that my mother had read to us in the car when we were young, so I went to the library and got audio books for us to listen to in the car. It turned out to be a wonderful experience for us both; I tried to pick books that we both would like to hear. My fondest memory is when we listened to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It turned out to be transformative for both of us.

If there are several children in your family, you will need to be cognizant of the differences in the ages as you are choosing your audio books. Remember that children can listen to books geared to an older age level than they can read. You will find that even the driver tunes into the book. I have always gotten a kick out of my husband and the books we listen to in the car. He says that he doesn't like fiction, but he is always the first to turn on the player when we get into the car.

Here are my best suggestions for books for road trips. All of these books are available at my local library. Check with your library website or just go and browse their audio book shelves.

The best part of listening to a book in the car is that the hours just fly by!

These books are appropriate for almost all families.

The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Most of the books in the series run about 6 hours on CD. The book for the youngest children is The Little House in the Big Woods. Please be warned that Pa speaks despairingly of Native Americans in some of the books but not in The Little House in the Big Woods. Probably will need some explaining about how pioneers felt about Native Americans.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. 4 1/2 hours. An adventure novel and modern fairy tale. It is fun with lots of puns and jokes about the meanings of English language idioms.

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe. 2 hours. Talk about silly! A vegetarian vampire bunny. Other books by the Howes that are also available on audio book include Howliday Inn and The Celery Stalks at Midnight. Everyone will be in stitches.

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.  2 hours. Mr. Popper is a house painter who is given two penguins who begin a small flock. The curiosity of the penguins and Mr. Popper's goodwill is memorable.

Redwall by Brian Jacques. 10 hours. Several books in the series. The story of a brave mouse who founds an abbey deep in the woods and fighs evil. Great stories.

Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck.  8 hours. Travel with the famous American author John Steinbeck as he travels around the United States with his dog, Charlie.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  12 hours. The classic story about Scout, a girl of the South and her lawyer father, a kind man who tries to live a just life. Scout is one of the most appealing children in American literature.

Happy Travels!

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Blog | English

Girls Like Adventure Stories Too

by Miriam Downey 30. May 2012 14:31

My sister and I are writing down three stories that have been in our family for about 100  years. One is about our grandmother and an adventure she had with some pigs when she was five years old. She told this story many times in our childhood, complete with authentic pig noises. We were only vaguely aware of another family story until we recently uncovered the obituary of our great, great grandmother. In the obituary, the story was told about our ancestor meeting up with the outlaw Jesse James on the day that Jesse James and his gang robbed the bank in Northfield, Minnesota.

These family stories caused me to start thinking about girls and adventure stories. My guess is that girls like to read about girls having adventures as much as they like to read about boys having adventures. Today I would like to share with you some stories about remarkable girls and their adventures, both fictional and true.

Jeanne Craighead George, who died this month, was a naturalist and author who wrote fiction and non-fiction books about nature. Her fiction book series, Julie of the Wolves, Julie, and Julie's Wolf Pack tells about the adventures of Julie, a 13-year-old Eskimo girl. In Julie of the Wolves, she gets lost on the tundra and is protected by a pack of wolves. The book won the Newbery Medal in 1973. The third book in the series, Julie's Wolf Pack, tells the story from the perspective of the wolves and is very exciting. I would recommend it for girls in grades 4-6. Her other famous story is My Side of the Mountain, an adventure about a boy named Sam who lives by himself in a tree house in the Catskill Mountains. It was a Newbery Honor Book.

Here is a list of adventure books with heroines and the recommended age levels.

Grades K-2

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. Parallel adventure stories of a little girl and a baby bear picking blueberries in Maine.

Brave Irene by William Steig. Irene is the dressmaker's daughter, and she has to deliver a ball gown in a fierce snowstorm.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Available online.Twelve little girls have madcap adventures in Paris.

Miss Rumphuis by Barbara Cooney. Miss Rumphius spent her life trying to make the world more beautiful. She traveled and had many adventures.

Swamp Angel by Anne Isaac. A wonderful tall tale in which Angelica saves a pioneer town.

Grades 3-5

 The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Two girls, interested in ancient Egypt, invent a game that leads them to a criminal investigation.

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. Available online. Five English children (three boys and two girls) have adventures regarding a mysterious creature with the power to grant wishes.

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Two children hide in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Harriet wants to be a writer, she has adventures as she watches people and takes notes. The notebook falls into the wrong hands.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. Karana is a Native American girl who spends 18 years alone on a rocky island off the coast of California. Based on a true story.

Grades 6-8

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. In 1832, Charlotte Doyle age 13 was sent across the ocean on her own. She gets involved in a mutiny and a murder.

I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson. A young Mongolian girl treks across the Gobi Desert and then along the Great Wall of China.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Salamanca heads on a spiritual quest from Ohio to Idaho to search for her mother.

The White Stallion by Elizabeth Shub. Gretchen and her old mare find themselves in the midst of a band of wild horses. Thrilling.

A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer. A young African girl escapes an arranged marriage by following the Musengezi River in a canoe. She has one adventure after another.

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy by L. A. Meyer. First of a series of books about a girl on a British warship.

Grades 9-12

Pirates! The True and Remarkable Adventures of Minerva Sharpe and Nancy Kington, Female Pirates by Celia Rees. The true story of two young women who became pirates to escape arranged marriages.

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. A young Ojibwa woman lives on an island in Lake Superior in 1847.

The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson by Ann McGovern. A biography of a woman who disguised herself as a man and joined the Continental army during the Revolution.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. The first of a series about Lyra who sets out to protect her friends and other kidnapped children from a sinister plot.

The Bean Tree by Barbara Kingsolver. Taylor makes her way West with an abandoned baby girl.

Some True Adventure Stories for Teenage Girls:

Race Across Alaska: First Woman to Win the Iditarod Tells Her Story by Libby Riddles. Story of the remarkable woman who won the Iditarod race.

The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China's Most Exotic Animal by Vicki Constantine Croke. One woman's adventurous trek through Tibet to capture a panda-alive.

No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War by Anita Lobel. A piercing account of surviving the Holocaust by a famous children's author and illustrator.

Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamiton. Could you return to the water after losing an arm in a shark attack? Hamilton did.

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung. How a young girl survived Cambodia's Pol Pot regime.

Have fun, all you adventurers out there!

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Wild Things: A Tribute to Maurice Sendak

by Miriam Downey 11. May 2012 08:46

I started writing a blog posting about adventure books, but it will have to be postponed because I want to pay tribute to my all-time favorite children's book, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.

Maurice Sendak died on May 8 at age 83. His influence on children's literature is immeasurable, primarily because of his groundbreaking picture book, Where the Wild Things Are. I don't believe it would be an overstatement to say that Where the Wild Things Are may be the most influential picture book of the 20th century. So influential, I might add, that I have a grandson named Max after the hero of the book.

Max is a naughty boy, gets mad at his mother, and is sent to bed without any supper. And like the hero of Greek mythology he sets sail:

       "Through night and day

         and in and out of weeks

         and almost over a year

         to where the wild things are."

My favorite line in the book is "Let the wild rumpus start." I think of that line every time all my grandchildren arrive at the house and every time we have a party. My other favorite line comes at the beginning of the book when Max begins his mischief, and his mother reprimands him. He gets so mad he tells his mother, "I'll eat you up!" which is the reason he is sent to his room.

Before Max, most picture book children were well-behaved little things, and picture books told stories with morals, and nothing bad ever happened. Where the Wild Things Are tells the story of the interior life of an angry little boy and how he deals with that anger. I believe that is why children identify so strongly with Max. He can get really angry, but he finds ways in his imagination to deal with that anger. Kids get the moral of that story ... we can learn to deal with anger in an interior way and return to the real world calmed and reflective. Where the Wild Things Are opened a floodgate of picture books which dealt with children's anger and all the other things that children face--death, fear of abandonment or not fitting in, as well as all the other childhood experiences, including the rich imaginary experiences so similar to Max's.

I watched my year-old granddaughter get really mad at dinner a couple of nights ago. Her father pulled her out of the high chair and carried her into the living room to cool off. Her fit subsided, and she returned to finish her dinner ... "and it was still warm."

I can't say that I recommend all of Maurice Sendak's books. I do like Chicken Soup with Rice, The Nutshell Library, and In the Night Kitchen, although I do have to mention that the little boy is naked in In the Night Kitchen. Maurice Sendak also illustrated many books by other authors including, Little Bear by Minarik and A Hole is to Dig by Kraus.

The New York Times quotes a letter that Maurice Sendak received from an 8-year-old: "Dear Mr. Sendak, How much does it cost to get to where the wild things are? If it is not expensive, my sister and I would like to spend the summer there."

In honor of Maurice Sendak, why don't you pull out your copy of Where the Wild Things Are or borrow one from the library? Have your children read it, and then write a story or essay about anger, or imagination, or "wild things" or whatever comes into their heads. It would be a fitting tribute to a great children's author and a great American book.

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Blog | English

Great Adventure Stories

by Miriam Downey 24. April 2012 11:19

As a young boy, my brother was a great reader--still is today. When he was quite young, he had a book about pirates that he read many times over, and mother probably read it to him as many times as he read it to himself. Lately, he has specialized in books about ultimate adventures, like mountain climbing and exploring. He has become a bit of an expert on Shackleton's adventures in Antarctica.

There are many adventure books that have stood the test of time, books like Kidnapped, Moby Dick, and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. These books are addictive. If you can get a young person to begin reading one of them, he won't be able to quit. The books on this list are available online and are included in the FWU library. These are also great books to listen to as audio books. The audio version of your chosen book will most likely be available at your public library. And, for most of these books, there is a movie available as well; sometimes, several movies have been made of the classic adventure stories.

I recently read some interesting advice from Judy Blume, the children's author, about how to get your child to read a classic book. "First, invest in one with a new cover. Even if you like the old, original covers. Second, don't give it to them. Just leave the books strategically placed around the house and then occasionally say: 'Oh, no. You're not raading that--you're not ready for it yet.'" I might also add, make sure you find a version with illustrations. For a book like Moby Dick, illustrations really help. I particularly like the classic illustrations by N.C. Wyeth which can be found in many of the books by Robert Louis Stevenson, like Treasure Island and Kidnapped.

Some of the best authors in history have written adventure books. Children should be exposed to Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville. They should know about Captain Nemo, Huclkeberry Finn, Phileas Fogg and his valet, Passepartout.

The following list of books includes classic adventure stories that can be accessed online. Just click on the book titles, and you will be taken to the book. You can find more classic books in the FWU library. The next blog posting will be about modern adventure stories that you can find in your library or local book store.

Grades 4-6

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. A balloon trip around the world.

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. An expedition descends into a subterranean world.

Heroes Every Child Should Know by Hamilton Mabie. Hero stories.

Kidnapped ; Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Pirate stories.

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Gray. One of many cowboys Gray wrote about the Old West.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Life on the Mississippi.

Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne. The story of Captain Nemo and his submarine, Nautilus.

Grades 7-12

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain. Time travel in medieval times.

Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. An adventure tale during the War of 1812.

Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad. The adventures of Jim, a seaman.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville. A classic tale of the sea.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac. The classic road trip. This is a book for High School students.

The Odyssey by Homer. The adventure story upon all which all adventure stories are built.


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More on the weather: Books and information for the middle grades

by Miriam Downey 12. April 2012 12:53

There is a man in a community near me who has been tracking the weather as a hobby every day since he was about twelve years old. In the days before computers and the Internet, he kept track of the weather, weather history, and weather trends with charts and notebooks. The local newspaper would contact him to ask if the weather was following trends or if it was veering off into something extreme, much like this March behaved in Michigan. He became the regional amateur weather expert. I think about him often--a man whose passion turned him into an expert. If he were doing it currently, he would probably have a website and a blog, and people all over the world would be checking into his weather report.

The middle grades are when many young people find the interests that will last them a lifetime. And although most kids won't pick meteorology as a career choice, nearly everyone is interested in the weather. Here are some supplemental books and websites to aid with the weather studies in the FWU curriculum or to spark an interest in the curious reader.


The Kids' Book of Weather Forecasting by M. Breen and K. Friestad. Lots of good weather activities. You might also want to connect this book with a weather station kit.

Peterson First Guide to Clouds and Weather by Jay Pasachoff and Vincent Schaefer. This is similar to other Peterson guides--concise, easy to read, and very complete.

Inside Hurricanes by Mary Kay Carlson. Stunning photographs. Includes eyewitness accounts.

Eye of the Storm: Inside the World's Deadliest Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and Blizzards by Jeffrey O. Rosenfeld. A fascinating look at extreme weather and the people who risk their lives to give us an understanding of these phenomena.

Restless Skies: The Ultimate Weather Book by Paul Douglas. Questions answered by a meteorologist.

The Water Cycle

One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss. A look at all the water on Earth and the water cycle. Also discusses our limited resource.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba. This is a true story of a boy who built a windmill from junkyard scraps in Malawi. With that windmill, he powered a well which watered the crops to feed his village. It is also available as a picture book.

Climate Change

The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon. Will help kids get interested in the environment.

Weather and Climate by Seymour Simon. Lots of pictures.

All of these books are available at your local library or bookstore.

Here are some weather websites:

The National Weather Service has a lot of information and books about weather. Also videos and other online resources:

Careers in meteorology from the Weather Channel:

A whole list of weather websites from

In your search for weather materials, please also look at the books and websites on my previous posting. You might find some helpful books there as well.


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