Browsing Richard Scarry

"Browsy" can be a very bad thing. No one likes browsy people in line at McDonald's for instance; they've had the same menu for decades and people need to simply choose to have a McNasty with cheese or without and then get out of line. Ooh! And it's frustrating being behind a browsy person at a potluck when you've already had to wait in a 20 minute line for food--at that point, you'll take ANY food-- but Browsy Betty over here is carefully choosing which celery cut looks freshest and slowly choosing the unbroken chips one by blessed one out of the bowl. My husband gets very browsy when he's in the wood section of a home improvement store. He carefully examines the different grains and inspects the knots and smells each piece to make sure they didn't misclassify their treated vs. untreated cedars. Oy.

And then browsy can be a good thing. I am browsy at bookstores... no, not browsy-- delightfully and deliberately lazy and timeless sinking into the books. I also tend toward a browsy attitude when I'm at a garage or rummage sale or at the grocery store unless children are in tow: when my brood is with me, I get what I need and get out of there as fast as I can.

In children's books, browsy is almost always a good thing. Well, when I'm reading a chapter book aloud and there's a quick, indiscriminate sketch on a page, I tend to get mildly annoyed if a kid wants to look at it for what I deem to be too long of a time. Or if my two-year-old keeps wanting to turn BACK the page to talk about the bird or bathtub or whathaveyou... and I'm trying to push through the book just for the sake of a naptime routine, browsy isn't a welcome word. Generally though, I encourage my children to drink in all the wonders and delights of a beautiful illustration and enjoy noticing all the details of a fun book.

Richard Scarry is the king of browsy picture books. I can't say he's the "best" illustrator in a purely artistic sense, but he wins the award for best, most fun details for all the pages in every book he's produced. My children love noticing the mishaps of Huckle and counting all the bunny children or looking for Goldbug. You've got to get some Richard Scarry. If you like, save browsy books and bring them out only for those 'needed' situations:

  • In the waiting room of any kind of appointment.

  • For the potty when you just need Gilbert to relax and be distracted long enough to let it all go.

  • For any kind of outing in public where you are in a confined space and babies are frowned upon.

  • So you can escape for ten minutes and take a shower.

  • When you need to impress your inlaws with how quietly Gilbert can sit and focus on a story.

  • So you can escape for ten minutes and create a brother for Gilbert.

You get the idea. Every home shouldn't be without special books that are kept novel in order to maximize the quiet time you get from them. I recommend Richard Scarry...

not in keeping with the goal of this blog...

(Newest baby will be here any day so don't expect a lot of 'action' on the blog in the next several weeks or so; it's easiest if you sign up to be my "follower" and get notified of a new post.)

So I want to share with you my biggest influences in the homeschooling book world. I realize not all of you homeschool and I realize this has not a lot to do with children's literature directly. But I was thinking about it and really, the ideas and thoughts contained within the following books help to shape my views on what children's literature should do and be. Within the entire genre of non-fiction, I've probably read more books about homeschooling than any other specific topic over the past 9 years (yes, I was reading and passionate about homeschooling even while still pregnant with my first child!). There are literally dozens I could write about. And I've gained something from each one. That is why they are important books. Besides, it's my blog and I can write about whatever I want to. :o) In no particular order:

So I'm not a true hue, dipped in blue Charlotte Masonite, but if I had to identify myself with any one method out there, I would most closely fall into this realm: living books, avoiding twaddle, basic excercises in copywork, narration and dictation, lots of nature study. With A Charlotte Mason Companion, Karen Andreola has made Miss Mason's 6 volume series on education quite accessible and readable to the American reader. There are a couple other books about Charlotte Mason philosophy out there and really, they are all pretty good (espcially For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School). But this one is my favorite simply because of the depth and breadth into which it goes. I felt like I got a lot of bang for my buck.
Now, you really can't go wrong with any John Holt title. He will turn you upside down on your entire thinking about what the typical perceptions of children are. He has been a great influence on me. I think it was in Teach Your Own book that Holt explained the simple error people make in quickly labelling children as dyslexic. (By the way, I've been part of entire week-long workshops dedicated to learning about this 'disability' so I've a pretty good grasp on what we're talking about here.) For example, a banana is a banana whether you point it right or left or turn it upside down. To a child, the letter "b" is a b whether to circular part is facing the wrong way or not. Very few teachers take the time to explain that letters aren't tangible, interchangeable items... and instead we look at the writing in dismay and remark that Sally has dyslexia. Anyway, it's a great book.
Most homeschooling parents go through some kind of overload crisis: they look at what's working for this family or the great methods that family employs, or they get overwhelmed with all the curriculum choices out there and they start over-thinking every little decision they make. Ruth Beechik to the rescue. The Three R's is simply a reminder to reclaim simplicity as the best mode of learning. It is very encouraging and I try to re-read it every few years to remind myself that I'm not going to academically ruin my Kindergartener if he's not reading by age 5. Good, simple techniques in this book.
This book was the catalyst to my actual excitement to homeschool. Real Learning by Elizabeth Foss is all about inspiring you that you can do an excellent job educating your children at home; it is full of great resources, ideas and suggestions that'll make your life easier and help you realize that your education goals are attainable. I love this book and loaned it to someone and it's been missing ever since (can't remember who!)... a testament I suppose that the book was a good one.
This is pretty much a classic by now. I first got this book when I was doing some teaching with Mother of Divine Grace and I think the introduction alone makes this worth the read. While not necessarily espousing a traditionally "classic" education, some have called Mrs. Berquist's methods in Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum more "neo-classical"... and I happen to think they are great and many families utilize her curriculum ideas with great success.
A Little Way of Homeschooling is a very refreshing read indeed. This is my latest home education book I've read and I loved every word of it. In fact, I wrote an entire review of it in the upcoming Autumn issue of Soul Gardening... so read about it there! This book gives confidence and hope to overwhelmed mothers. It offers a fresh perspective on the education of children and I highly recommend it.
Finally I offer Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto if you are in need of convincing that government schools aren't all they're cracked up to be. This book is what really helped to get my husband 100% on board with homeschooling. Gatto was the New York State and New York City Teacher of the Year and upon receiving his award, he took the opportunity to rail on the entire public school system. You can read the text of that speech here. Gatto has written a couple other books giving a black eye to public schools as well. They are worth the read. Do note that I am a supporter of free public education! I think it is a hallmark of a great nation to offer this to its citizens. I do however think it's pretty much rotten to the core in regards to how it's set up and the beauracracy that's running the show. It makes me sick how we shortchange children. (Don't mistake me for blaming this on individual teachers and staff who are doing their best within the system to make a difference. They are to be commended for their efforts... the blame goes deeper.) But I digress.

Okay, thanks for indulging me on this little detour from children's literature. Enjoy these starter books and then I'll give you some more! Someday, I'll be thrilled to write a post about my favorite "Books about Books" someday... oh how juicy of a topic for a bibliozealot! But for now, back to your regularly scheduled program...

A keeper... reluctantly

I avoid a commercialized childhood as much as possible in our home. There are a number of reasons for this but the primary one is admittedly aesthetic. I don't like cartoon characters plastered all over our toys and I don't like my children to serve as walking billboards with whatever fad or name brand is in. The same is true for our bookshelves. You won't find Barney or Elmo on the shelves and Curious George is only there because he was cool before the media exploited him.

Anyway, I recently did a purging of our shelves and weeded out some unneccesary books. Mind you, I never have to give away bad books, because we never buy them in the first place. But we occasionally acquire books that are really just mediocre for one reason or another and they get the seasonal axe simply so I can focus on what our real treasures are (and so I have room for more books on the shelf).

There is one annoying little book we own that I can't bear to get rid of. It's my two-year old's favorite... she requests it before every nap time even if I've hidden it and placed other delights in front of her. I think I picked it up at Goodwill and gave it to her in the cart to keep her occupied while I shopped but she didn't want to part with it come checkout time so I paid the 40 cents or whatever to keep it... fully intending on ditching it asap. Peek-a-Boo featuring the baby Looney Tunes. I won't link it. Don't buy it. She adores lifting the flaps of the tunes' Halloween costumes and giggles like it's new each time she finds Baby Sylvester or Baby Taz underneath it. Who knew it would be such a hit?!

At any rate, if you are eager for feeding this kind of delight, I recommend another board book in its place: Peek-A Who? by Nina Laden. Now this one is great and has the same suspense type of deal with a very satisfying ending. One advantage is that it uses little, sturdy grip holes, not the flaps. I don't know about your kids, but flaps or other precarious parts do not belong in OUR toddler books! I hope to replace my Peek a Boo with this one someday... maybe she'll go for it? At least you should...

(Theoretical) Library Pick of the Week

This is theoretical because we've not actually checked this book out. It was on our holds queue and I was devastated when I couldn't pick it up. Truth be told, we are currently blocked from the county library system. Apparently they don't tolerate a $40 bill. See, when your library charges 25 cents/day/book for overdue items, this really, really adds up when you are checking out 30-40 books at a time. Now, there is no excuse really, we live within walking distance to our local library. But the trouble is when we "lose" a book (it's under a mattress or behind the piano) and another user has holds on it, it is unable to be renewed... and accrues late fees. Couple that with an unfortunate incident involving a wiggly boy, a large glass of water and a $20 book, and your account quickly goes into the delinquent status. (As I type we are racking up fees for one errant book: Babar Visits Another Planet-- because it is unable to be renewed since our account is delinquent and it is nowhere to be found) Meanwhile, the library keeps sending me notices that I have holds to be picked up which agonize me that I can't pick up until our account is paid off--maybe next payday. But I digress.

I am certain that A Butterfly Is Patientis a fantastic book in the same vein as this author's other two mentioned books here: An Egg Is Quietand A Seed Is Sleepy. I loved how the other two books wove readers into a spell of story and science and found the illustrations and prose delightfully engaging... these would certainly be worthwhile books to invest in full price for both the sake of its beauty and its academic merit. A Butterfly is Patient was released this May and after a 30 second perusal at a small bookstore on the Oregon Coast, I was convinced it merited mention even if I've not read it in its entirety yet. So look for it and its predecessors as soon as you're in the mood for delight!


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