Missouri: Mark Twain

Finding the elements of story

I actually found a pretty decent kid version of Huckleberry Finn (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer #2: The Best Fence Painter (Easy Reader Classics) ).  Hmph, I obviously should’ve edited that before copying it.  Oh well.


  I’ve always enjoyed his story, but then I always enjoy stories with young scamps in them, or not so young scamps.  I like trickster characters………


Well, it’s a cute story that takes that portion of Huck Finn, and makes it into an easy reader.


I thought this was a perfect opportunity to work on elements of story.


In particular:



and of course:

Huck Finn characters

Missouri: The Gateway Arch

I found a great book about the The Gateway Arch.  It had all the information about it, but it wasn’t too overwhelming.


After reading it we took some time to talk about what kind of monument we might design.  Can you guess what the boys wanted to design?



Yes, we got one that looks like the Washington Monument, one birthday cake, and then two battle scenes.  Actually, I think Batman’s is a whole epic war complete with hide-outs.


I kid you not.  Either way, the kids all enjoyed it, so I’m not going to complain too much.

Illinois: Hog Music

I must say the children’s librarian at our library orders some of the best books.  They may not have the most obvious way to do an art project or writing project connected to it, but the stories are wonderful.
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A little girl and her family move out West to Illinois.  Her aunt refuses to move out there because there’s nothing out there but “wind and hog music.”  The aunt sends a small present out to her niece, but along the way it falls out of the mail wagon.  This is the story of how the present got there and what was added along the way.

Which of course led to the question, what would you pack to send as a birthday present to someone far away, and what would you have added in to the package you found?

Well as we snacked on our popcorn (you’ll see in a few weeks about that).

We talked about what would we give her and what would we add into a present that was about the size of a shoe box if we were able to do so.

Can you guess what the boys added?
Surprisingly it wasn’t just weapons, but there were quite a few as you would expect from a group of mostly boys who all love Lego Ninjago.  My boys also added stuffed animals.  Lots of stuffed animals, and a few weapons, and food.  They had popcorn on their mind.

Meanwhile Princess happily colored away and drew ribbons and dresses and dolls for her imagined friend who was getting all of this packed up in a shoe box.

As I was thinking about this, it would be a good planning project for Operation Christmas Child.

The printable we used can be found here: Hog Music printable.

I’m gonna link up to these fun parties:
learning laboratory at mama smilesShibley Smiles

Luck with Potatoes

“Luck With Potatoes” is a fun book about a farmer in Tennessee who has the worst luck until one day it turns around.  You’ll have to read the book to find out how.

Well, after reading the book there was nothing to do, but to draw what was going to be found in our potatoes.
Apparently there were a lot of animals found in our potatoes.  Not to mention entire worlds.  If we were potato farmers we would have been able to make a mint off the things found in there.

I had originally planned on having the kiddos make something out of potatoes, but it didn’t come to pass, much sadness.  Maybe I’ll save that for the 20th rereading of the book.

Tennessee: Casey Jones

One of the local Tennessee heroes is Casey Jones, he was a train engineer in the 1800s who was known for never being late, and who sacrificed himself but saved everyone else on his train from a crash.

He was originally made famous by a song written a few years after his death, and then became famous again when Disney made a cartoon short about him.

For our study we read about Casey Jones with a very well written rhyming book, then we watched the movie.


Afterwards we compared the book and the movie.  In this instance we did a simple same and different T-chart, but this is a favorite activity of mine with books that have been made into movies.  What was changed?

Casey Jones Tennessee

In case you can’t read what that says, in both he crashed, but he did not paddle through water in the book.


There were a few significant differences between the book and the movie, and if you’re interested I’d highly recommend the wikipedia article about Casey Jones, it gives some interesting facts there.


What is your favorite book to movie transition?  Do you like any picture books that have been made into movies.  I have very mixed feelings on those movies.

Tennessee: Swamp Angel

learning laboratory at mama smiles

Little did I know, but Tennessee has almost as many tall tales and what not as Texas does.  I’ve been having a blast previewing the books we’re going to use, and I’m thinking of having my kids take a stab at writing their own tall tale.

Maybe, I’m sure there would be an uproar if I did.
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Swamp Angel is the story of a girl who grew up in Tennessee and saved it from the biggest bear ever to plague the state.

At one point while she and that bear wrestled she threw him up into the sky and he hit the stars (thus creating Ursa Major).  Well, we had to make our own versions.  I had grand dreams of much more complicated versions, but I knew for the sake of the kids I needed to “Keep It Simple Stupid.”  So, I did.
Swamp Angel Tennessee


As always they took it and ran.  Little friend happily scribbled away.  Big friend, drew a picture of a bear with a very small earth below.  My boys drew the entire fight with both sides growing appendages all over.  Princess happily drew a smushed bear up in the sky.

Vermont: Champy

I have to admit I love anything and everything Stephen Kellog, he just write and illustrates some of the cutest books.  I’m lucky and went to a conference he was at and he signed a book for me.

A couple of years ago when Superheroes and Princesses wrote about Vermont she mentioned Lake Champlain has an inhabitant rather like the Loch Ness Monster, she actually found a book about him, but my library didn’t have that.  However I own the next best thing a book not specifically about the Loch Ness Monster.


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Well, after reading it and talking about Champy, we took some time to make our own versions of him.


Isn’t if funny how they each have their own very distinct Champy?

And here’s the printable, if you want it: Vermont: Champy

Vermont: John Deere and tractors

I actually don’t particularly recommend the book we used, it was okay, but it was just a generic book about tractors and didn’t hold their attention to well.


I can’t even find it on amazon…….




Well after reading all about tractors and talking about John Deere and his plans to make farmers lives better, we all went to the table and designed our own wonder-invention.


It was amusing to see what all they came up with.



John Deere


This is Superman’s (in the picture above), his invention helps you get corn.  That’s the farmer riding inside of the corn growing machine. 


Here’s what the printable looks like.  If you’d like to download it, just click on the link and it’ll head right over to Scribd.

stART: A Dragon on the Doorstep


“A Dragon on the Doorstep” is a cute story about two kids who find a dragon and they hide from it, and proceed to find several other animals in their house, and eventually play hide and seek with them.


One of the things I enjoyed about this book is seeing hints of the upcoming animals they’d discover.


After we read the book the kids wrote a sentence about the animal that was hiding in our house, and where it was hiding.  Then they wrote a picture.


Superman didn’t follow directions completely, so he only wrote “monster.”  Batman said, “Cheetah is hiding in the attic.”  Princess never let me get a picture of her horse hiding on her bed.


I had plans of starting a book of their writings for the year, and then they went and hung it up on the dining room wall.  So that’s obviously not happening……..

North Carolina: Blackbeard’s Last Fight


We read this when we first studied North Carolina, and the kids were a little weirded out by it then because it’s a little scary, but they’re older now, and a bit more bloodthirsty, and besides our geography group skews heavily to the boy side of things, so anything with pirates is good.


When I read it 3 of the boys (including mine) were absolutely spell bound and kept creeping closer and closer to me, so they were almost on top by the time I was done reading it.


At first I didn’t have a great idea for a craft, and then as we did the protest signs for “Freedom on the Menu,” it came to me!  Blackbeard’s corpse sinking into the waters, yes that was our craft.


008So, I got out small Dixie cups, popsicle sticks, and cut index cards into little bitty pieces to fit into the cups (approximately fourths).  Then I set the kids to drawing their Blackbeard, when they were done they glued their card to a popsicle stick and we stuck it through the bottom of the cup.


They happily sat there pulling him up and down in the cup, and watching his body drown…..  Yes, they loved this craft.


Afterwards Superman had a blast stacking cups and making pyramids.