Ambleside Online in Australia

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Back to the Classics Challenge 2015

This challenge beckons me...

This challenge is hosted by Karen at Books & Chocolates.
I have some ideas only at the moment but I'll probably be using some of the books I listed in the Classics Book Club Challenge which I started a year ago. Here are some thoughts anyhow - subject to change. I'll come back to this post and update it as I decide on the books.

1. A 19th Century Classic -- any book published between 1800 and 1899.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

2.  A 20th Century Classic -- any book published between 1900 and 1965.  Just like last year, all books must have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify as a classic.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis

3.  A Classic by a Woman Author

Bronte's, Flannery O'Connor, Jane Austen - which will be a re-read, if that's allowed.

4.  A Classic in Translation.

Probably something by a Russian author; Tolstoy or Solzhenitsyn but nothing too long because I need to get through No. 5...

5.  A Very Long Classic Novel -- a single work of 500 pages or longer.

? The Old Curiosity Shop

6.  A Classic Novella -- any work shorter than 250 pages.

H.G. Wells or Flannery O'Connor unless I use one of her books for No 3

7.  A Classic with a Person's Name in the Title.  First name, last name, or both, it doesn't matter, but it must have the name of a character.  David Copperfield, The Brothers Karamazov, Don Quixote -- something like that. It's amazing how many books are named after people!

Need to think about this one. Would Mr. Standfast qualify?

8.  A Humorous or Satirical Classic.

Have no idea. Any suggestions??

9.  A Forgotten Classic.  This could be a lesser-known work by a famous author, or a classic that nobody reads any more.

A Philosophy of Education or another by Charlotte Mason

10.  A Nonfiction Classic.  A memoir, biography, essays, travel, this can be any nonfiction work that's considered a classic, or a nonfiction work by a classic author.

WW1 or 2 or related to a war.

11.  A Classic Children's Book.

Undecided but won't have any trouble finding one in this category.

12.  A Classic Play.

Definitely Shakespeare - Hamlet, Richard III 

Thanks to Nancy and Cleo for pointing me in the direction of the Challenge.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Keeping Christmas Update

This post follows on from two I did previously: 1 & 2. We're continuing to listen to Handel's Messiah. I found an easier way to follow along if you don't have the CD - check the number of each section and google Handel's Messiah No. 38 (or whatever number you are up to) There are heaps of YouTube videos covering various sections. It's more time consuming than a CD but it's free.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - loving this. We've just finished reading Stave 4 - The Last of the Spirits. There's a good Kindle version of the book here - illustrated by Arthur Rackham. I was so pleased to have Nancy from the Netherlands, on other side of the world, join us in listening to Handel's Messiah over December as well as reading through A Christmas Carol. She has shared her very insightful thoughts on both Handel's music and Dickens' book at her blog, ipsofactodotme.


Woodburning practice while listening to me read aloud the book above:

I've added a couple of Carols this year but we're still listening to our favourites from other years.

Also known as the Carol of the Drum:

If you're interested in how much the 12 Days of Christmas items actually cost...

 My wonderful sister-in-law is coming over next week to do some Christmas cooking with the youngest two and I'll be making my specialties - fruitcake, carob balls and fruit logs. My arm's being twisted to also make some Scottish tablet but it's lethal stuff. I'll annoy everyone and come up with a healthy version, which of course won't taste anything like the real thing.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Thunderbolt the Falcon by C.K.Thompson (1904-1980)


This is the story of two boys and an old man who capture and train a peregrine falcon. The story is set in Australia but by skilfully weaving history and the sport of falconry into his tale, the author has made his story interesting to readers outside of Australia also - especially so because the peregrine falcon is found in many places throughout the world.

The story begins with Joe, a young larrikin and an avid reader of adventure books. As a result of his being unable to find the latest Buffalo Bill novel on his last trip to town and his reluctance to complete the list of jobs left by his mother when she went out for the day, his attention was drawn to an old book lying on the floor. 'Flower of Knighthood' had been commissioned as a doorstop as well as other sundry uses in the past and for want of a better occupation Joe took the book outside, sat under a tree and began to read it.
Presently he found himself awash in English history and consequently when his friend David, who was born in England came along some time later, he quizzed him about the Black Prince, Edward the Third and the sport of falconry. In the course of their conversation Joe discovered that David's Grandfather, Mr. Mannering, had been a gamekeeper in England and knew a great deal about falcons and hawks.
The boys eventually convinced Grandfather Mannering to teach them the art of falconry and they subsequently set out to capture a juvenile falcon and begin its training as a hunting hawk. The author goes into some detail about the method used for training falcons and also describes numerous other creatures such as cicadas:

"The locusts make the row by rubbing their hind legs across the drums," remarked Joe knowingly.
"That's just where you are wrong, and in any case they are not locusts," said Grandfather. "They don't rub their legs across the drums at all. It is all done by vibration. Underneath the drums on each side of the cicada's body is a hole covered with skin and full of muscles. The insect, using these muscles, causes the skin to vibrate in and out and the drum acts as a sort of amplifier or loud-speaker. The faster the cicada vibrates his muscles, the louder and harsher is the row he kicks up."

C.K. Thompson wrote numerous books about Australian wildlife (eg. the dingo) which sadly are out of print, but if you can get hold of any they are wonderful sources of information on Australian Natural history intertwined in stories that contain both action and interest. Many of his children's books were written in the 1950's so they reflect that generation's outlook and use of language and the writing sometimes feels a little dated but his stories still have a strong appeal to children around the ages of about 8 years and up.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

25 Books to Read Aloud with Very Young Children

This post was started just over a year ago but I added in a few books recently so here it is updated.

I couldn't wait to start reading to my children so I started early. I wasn't thinking about education or learning as such at the time; it was more about just being with them and sharing my love of books with them but in doing that for a short period each day I was unwittingly imparting some other benefits at the same time.

This little habit of sitting on my lap having a book read to them - jiggling them up and down, keeping the book away from little grabbing mitts and drool, keeping them interested and attentive - was going to pay dividends later on when we were in situations where we needed to keep little ones quiet: like sitting through  long church services, weddings, concerts, doctors' waiting rooms and graduation ceremonies.

One stinking hot summer's afternoon when I was 38 weeks pregnant and had to go to an emergency dental appointment, my husband rushed home from work, dropped me off at the dentist and headed for the nearest air conditioned building (a crowded MacDonald's restaurant filled with screaming kids). He squeezed our then 5 children aged 2 to 11 years of age around a table and told them to wait while he went to the bathroom. He returned to find them all sitting there with ice creams in their hands looking slightly bemused and a lady rushed over and said she just had to buy them because they were all waiting so patiently & hoped he didn't mind! It was no big deal for them to sit and wait but we've often been surprised that other people think that it's beyond the realm of a child's ability to do so.

Attentiveness doesn't just happen, in my experience. It is something that has to be cultivated. Reading aloud  regularly with our children from an early age definitely helped them to acquire the habit of attentiveness.

The following books worked well for the little ones in our family:
1. Miffy  by Dick Bruna
The girls loved these. We still have a t-shirt Grandma made with Miffy appliqu├ęd on the front.

2. Spot by Eric Hill
Our boys loved the Spot books. There are oodles in the series  - lift the flap and see where Spot is hiding. We have a very worn large book of Spot's Bedtime Stories which was our youngest son's favourite.


3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. My daughter, Zana, said this book was voted as the favourite child's picture book in a survey taken in her Children's Literature class at university.

The next 4 are rhyming books which I think work really well with reading aloud to young children.

4. Ten Apples up on Top by Theo. LeSieg

5. Put me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire

6. I Want to be Someone New by Robert Lopshire

7. A Big Ball of String by Marion Holland. This book is longer than the others but the rhyming keeps it flowing.

8. Go Dog Go! by P.D. Eastman - I think everyone in our family could recite this book from memory. My mother-in-law gave us a copy when we were expecting our first child (she's 24 years old now) as it was one of my husband's favourites when he was little. We've still got the original but everyone wants to take it with them when they leave home so I'll have to get some new copies. Definitely a favourite.

9. The Precious Pearl by Mick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen - The Lost Sheep, The Two Sons and the House on the Rock are others in the series.

10. Little Chick's Story by Mary DeBall . A sweet story about Broody Hen and her little Chick.

11. Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik. Four stories about Little Bear are included in this book: What will Little Bear Wear? Birthday Soup, Little Bear Goes to the Moon and Little Bear's Wish.

12. Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion - Harry hates having a bath so he runs away from home. There are at least two other Harry titles.


13. Sam and the Firefly by P.D. Eastman. Gus the firefly's tricks have got him into trouble but with the help of Sam the owl, he manages to intervene and avert a collision.

14. The King, the Mice and the Cheese by Nancy and Eric Gurney. A fun story about a King who tries to get rid of the mice in his kingdom but ends up with bigger problems. My kids loved the illustrations in this book.

15. What Would Jesus Do? by Mack Thomas, illustrated by Denis Mortenson. We bought this book when our oldest children were 4 and 2 years of age and we've read it countless times to each of our 7 children so it's just holding together. It's been one of our favourite books to read aloud to young children.

'When I'm faced with a fear or a bad attitude, When I want to be angry or worried or rude, When I don't want to serve, and don't want to love- When only MYSELF is what I'm thinking of - Right from the start I will ask in my heart, WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?'

16. The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese. A little duck stays out on the Yangtze River all night in order to avoid a spanking for being late to return  home to his master's houseboat. First published in 1933.

17. The Bike Lesson by Stan and Jan Berenstein. Our oldest son bought this for his little sister because he loved it and thought it was hilarious when he was little.

18.  The Josephina Story Quilt by Eleanor Coerr. Josefina's Pa reluctantly allows her to take her pet hen on their wagon journey west and on the way Josefina sews patches for her quilt.


19.  Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain by Edward Ardizzone. Little Tim desperately wanted to be a sailor and so he becomes a stowaway.

20. The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone. This was our fourth son's favourite book when he was about three years old & I loved reading it to him. It is a great little teaching device for helping children to see that every one needs to help out around the place (especially in a large family or everything goes pear-shaped) but it's done in such a sweet and non-moralising way. Paul Galdone has some great books for older readers or family read alouds also.

21. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. When our children were about 3 years of age they loved this story and others in The Complete Tales book.

22. Peepo by Janet & Allan Ahlberg - my little ones really enjoyed this book but to be honest I probably enjoyed it more because it took me back in my memory to Scotland where I was born and spent the first eight years of my life. The house in the book is so much like I remember homes in Scotland. My Grannie lived with us at different times and there is a picture of a Grannie having a snooze with the washing hanging up all around her trying to dry by the fire and a dad in his army uniform. My dad had to do National Service when we were little so that was another link to the past.

23. Mother Goose  - I've linked to a post I did on Poetry with young children.

24. Charlie Cricket - I just had to add this. Our eldest, JJ, got this on her first birthday. It was just a simple little story about a cricket whose friends helped him overcome his fears and at the end of each page there was a button to press which made a chirping sound. It was her favourite book for a good year and all seven kids liked it and played with the button. A year ago JJ got married & moved out of home so we went through all our books so she could take hers with her (sob!) and we found Charlie Cricket. He'd lost his chirp but the sound button had lasted over 20 years. So here he is as a tribute to the company who made such a long lasting product:

25. How to Make an Apple Pie & See the World - a book my children loved at a young age but also one that they've enjoyed later on. You can see why here.