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Book Reviews

by Michael Leppert

American Heroes
The Homeschool Source Book
Little Proto's T-Rex Adventure
Read, Reason, Write Series
(Click a book title to jump to that review or scroll down)


American Heroes: 1735 - 1900
by Morrie Greenburg
Brooke-Richards Press
ISBN 0-9622652-3-3
8-1/2 x 11 Soft, 95 pp. $9.95

American Heroes, 1735 - 1900 is the 3rd volume in Morrie Greenberg’s excellent American history set, all of which are extremely useful as supplemental reading. We enjoy reading about a topic covered in this series first, then watching a video about the topic and/or reading a fictionalized novel or what-have-you. The Brooke-Richards books are easy to read, but not dumbed down or disinteresting. Author Greenberg has a true gift for the entire gamut of storytelling -- from choosing a subject worthy of the telling, to weaving the facts into a colorful, narrative style. I read these well-written stories aloud to Lennon at the end of the day or before bedtime because they are so interesting yet easy to read and listen to. They provide him a view of American history that isn’t loaded down with too many facts, dates, etc., but rather they tell the story and provide a colorful insight into the development of our country.

Some of the stories in Heroes From America’s Past have a Robert Ripley-esque (Ripley’s Believe It Or Not) air about them, bringing to light such interesting characters as the Emperor of the United States; chemist Charles Goodyear of tire & rubber fame; African-American mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker; reformer Dorothea Dix and naturalist John Muir to name a few.

This book and its companion volumes are perfect additions to your home-schooling library, suitable for ages 10 & up.


The Homeschool Source Book
2nd Ed. Revised by Donn Reed
Brook Farm Books
POB 246
Bridgewater, ME 04735
506/375-4680 Soft, 298 pp,
$20 U.S. $25.50 Can. + $2 s&h

This is the current edition of the grand-daddy of all homeschool resource books! Written by the late Donn Reed, it is large (8-1/2 x 11 inches) and features tons of excellent materials and books which are available from Brook Farm Books, the supply company still operated by Jean Reed, Donn’s wife.

Donn Reed had a great insight into people along with a keen sense of humor (and the absurd!) which he sprinkles throughout this large, part-narrative, part-resource catalog.

He and Jean began home-schooling their four children in the early 1970s(!); that places them among the progenitors of modern homeschooling! It also explains why Donn’s book reminds me of the first Whole Earth Catalog in its "feel." But his intelligence and sense of humor take the Source Book way beyond being only an illustrated listing of products -- it becomes a great primer in how to teach your children and be a conscientious citizen, while maintaining grace and dignity -- even in the face of daunting "authority" figures like school officials, etc. My ears began to steam as I read the portion of the book dealing with the Reed family’s encounters with petty local school officials and I admired Donn‘s quietly firm, patient approach to maintaining his integrity. Maybe the Source Book should be subtitled "Zen in the Art of Homeschooling." (!)

Reading Donn’s book, I had the mental picture of a tall, thoughtful, very easy-going man smoking a pipe, clad in a plaid workshirt and heavy workboots just in from chopping a load of firewood on an Autumn day, greeting me with a cup of tea and a chat on the wood-slat front porch about teaching our own children (and our dogs); living in a more sensible society; humorous anecdotes from the adventures of trying to live "real" and so on. A clear, steady voice speaks to you throughout the book, with wisdom, encouragement, laughter and wit.

Enhancing Donn’s sophisticated rusticity is the fact that he cared about learning and knowledge -- he doesn’t avoid words like "studying" or "educational." Because of the aura of gentle wisdom which surrounds the book, he leads and inspires one to strive for the ideal of being a dignified, humble human being, while brimming with self-discovered ability and bristling with enthusiasm for tomorrow and yet another new thing to

experience.

Of course, as one might expect, Donn’s taste in learning materials is excellent. If you could only purchase one resource book, I would definitely make it this one. I recommend the Source Book to every homeschooling family just to make sure you don’t miss some things that are really swell. It is a happy problem we homeschoolers have, in that there is such a wealth of material available that we have to actually pay attention or miss out on a potentially great book, kit or program. This book helps.

Most people in homeschooling are eager to offer a helping hand to others who want to learn more. In writing this book, Donn Reed extends his hand to give the reader a pull up to his particular plateau, if one wishes it. Take the hand that is offered, you will enjoy the climb and the view!


Little Proto’s T-Rex Adventure
by Odds Bodkin
CD-Rom ($14.95) Cassette ($9.95) Ages 3 & up, 72 mins.
Rivertree Productions
POB 410
Bradford, NH 03221
800/554-1333 or www.oddsbodkin.com

This is the great new sequel to The Adventures of Little Proto: A Musical Dinosaur Story by master storyteller, songwriter, singer & multi-instrumentalist, Odds Bodkin. If you already familiar with this incredibly-talented recording artist, you know what to expect -- superlative acoustic guitar work and vocals (including great character voices), and beautiful melodies all woven through an intelligent, witty and touching story. If you are a first-timer, get ready for a great listening time!

This story deals with the growing-up difficulties of a young Protoceratops dinosaur. He feels displaced in his parents’ affections by the imminent hatching of his baby sister egg. One of his friends, an old Triceratops, Wrinkles, provides Proto with insight that ‘you’ll never know how much you love them until they’re not there anymore,’ in a very touching song called "You’ll Never Know."

Proto’s adventures continue as he wanders from home and meets a large cast of other humorous and interesting dinosaurs fresh from Mr. Bodkin’s prolific imagination.

This excellent story ends with Proto and all of his friends, new & old, being reunited and returning to their home, the sea of grass. As with all of the Odds Bodkin recordings, this one is great for listening in the car. It makes time fly by!

I’ll be interviewing Odds in the next issue of The Link. In the meantime, if you are on the Internet, check out his great website, listed above. Besides a complete store of Odds’ excellent award-winning, books and recordings, it features the first worldwide web epic poem, The Rowan Canticles, which is 10,000 lines long, to date, but still being written. It features beautiful and ironic poetic images while unfolding a great love story "in the ancient manner."

Read · Reason · Write Series
by Jack Cassidy, Ph.D & Drew Cassidy
Continental Press
520 E. Bainbridge St.
Elizabeth, PA 17022
800/233-0759 for free catalog

Continental Press produces this series of high-quality workbooks to aid the student in improving his/her reading, thinking and writing skills. Each attractive volume is nearly 50 pages long and filled with reading selections followed by work pages and/or exercises.

Some of the early volumes use the association web or graphic organizer as a way of teaching the organization of thought for writing. Using this technique, one places a central idea in the center of the page and around it one writes words or ideas that support the central word/idea. Then one can list further supporting words under each of the secondary ones until all of the important ideas have been accounted for. The more advanced volumes in the series presuppose familiarity with this method.

At the end of each lesson are Notes to the Writer offering focused advice or insight into the craft of writing. For instance, one piece of advice is on the use of adjectives to create more interesting writing, which will be read avidly, rather than dull, ordinary writing which will cause the reader to avoid it.

Also concluding each lesson is Try This, a suggested exercise in writing, aimed at improving whatever skill the Notes refer to. These volumes are worthy of your close investigation, even if you don’t normally care for workbooks.

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