DK Eyewitness Books

Lights! Camera! Edison!

Edison

Creativity AND Business Skills – We just completed a unit on Thomas Edison and his brainy brilliance that brought the world incandescent light bulbs, phonographs, movie cameras, etc.  The DK Readers book we read is entitled, “Thomas Edison: The Great Inventor”, but the underlying message is “Inventor? Yes, but this man ALSO possessed extraordinary business skills that were more than a match for his relentless inventing”.  Wow.  My son and I had as many conversations about Edison’s unerring business sense as we did about his creations.

drake better

Good books about bad people – so far we have learned about Napoleon, King George III, Rasputin, and Alexander the Great via the outstanding Scholastic “A Wicked History” series.  The books are well researched and written to our level of comprehension, meaning NOT juvenile, but not mind-numbingly erudite.  The only negative: the photos are always so small, in grey tones/very hard to decipher.  We are currently learning about a really awful person (from a really awful family chock full of bullies, thugs and thieves), Sir Francis Drake.  I had NO idea he was so reprehensible.  AWFUL.

Greetings book

“Greetings from Nowhere” – our new novel, by Barbara O’Connor is an original, entertaining book, just the type we look for (young adult themes my son can understand without the awkward “coming of age” element), with lots of concepts for us to discuss: motel, kitchenette, adoption, and for heavens sakes, last night we had to Google Image CHARM BRACELETS.

hands

Art at the Vatican – to prepare ourselves for a Vatican art survey, we are reading “Michelangelo” by Diane Stanley. Excellent resource.

Dogs playing poker

Art at Le Fictitious Local Diner – this story problem revolves around the diner gussying up the place with selected pieces of what some might call art. Of course, they are installing the classic “A Friend in Need” (the rest of us know it as “Dogs Playing Poker”) by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, purchased for $45.  A portrait of Elvis on black velvet has also been purchased for $90.  Posters of Batman, Superman, and Marilyn Monroe round out the collection, the lot acquired at a garage sale for $10.  How much has the diner spent on “artwork”? (Heh, heh, the answer is not “zero”.)  Money to purchase the exciting wall decor came from the diner’s tabletop jukeboxes.  At 25 cents per song, how many songs had to be played before the art could be purchased?

Inventions for Inventions: our classical music theme last night – we celebrated the inventions of Thomas Edison by listening to a few inventions by Johann Sebastian Bach.  First, we needed to understand what a Bach invention is.  For this, we viewed a superb 7-minute video starring killer pianist Simone Dinnerstein.  This video is a jewel!  Just watch her flying fingers!

Bach’s 15 inventions were composed as keyboard exercises in 1723.  We listened to:

  • Invention No. 8 in F major”, played by Simone Dinnerstein.  Seriously, we love her!  We want to know where to get our SD Fan Club badges.

  • Invention No. 13 in A minor”, played by little mighty mite, Annie Zhou, an 8 year old, competing in the Canadian Music Competition a few years back.  Watch her attack this piece.

  • Invention No. 6 in E major” played by a banjo and double bass.  We watched this for comic relief, but were so pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the performance! Kudos!

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Second Time Around

blue moon       blue moon

July 2, 2015                       July 31, 2015

Blue Moon!  My son and I observed the blue moon on the final evening of July.  We learned that the term “blue moon” (the second full moon, if there are 2 full moons in one month) (very rare) does not refer to the moon’s color, but rather to the centuries-old phrase, “once in a blue moon” (something that occurs with preposterous infrequency).  For the vocab list: lunar.  And preposterous.

dictionary best

Our first research project!  The question was, “which letter of the alphabet begins the greatest number of words and which letter of the alphabet begins the fewest number of words?”.  My son guessed that the most words started with “E” and the fewest number of words started with “Z”. We used a real (non-electronic) dictionary and simple subtraction to find the number of pages (2 letters per night). We saved “E” and “Z” for the final night (he was pretty darn close with the “Z” choice). This was such a simple assignment, but surprisingly, it started a number of conversations. We want to do another research project!

The tally, in order of most words to fewest:  S with 167 pages, C, P, T, A, M, B, D, R, F, E with 52 pages, H, I, G, W, O, N, V, U, L with only 15 pages (this was a surprise, we thought there would be loads of “L” words), J, K, Q, Y, Z with 3 pages, X with 2 pages.

applewhites books

What we were reading this past week –

  • “Albert Einstein”: two thumbs up for this DK Biography by Frieda Wishinsky (regretfully, we have been disappointed with several DK books, but this one is excellent).
  • “The Merchant of Venice” (Shakespeare, obviously): we are reading a retelling of the play by Charles and Mary Lamb (this is a complicated plot line, and this version is OK, not great, but OK).
  • “Surviving the Applewhites”: our fourth time through this novel by Stephanie S. Tolan. This book is a treasure! It is funny, it is quirky, it is a hot mess – and the message! Wow. It is all about the single-minded pursuit of one’s passion. LOVE THIS BOOK.
English-Breakfast-Tea-Tin-276x300   English-Breakfast-Tea-Tin-276x300

Breaking news (and story problem) from Le Fictitious Local Diner! No more baskets of mish-mashed teabag options at the diner!  The hot tea service is being classed up and now only English Breakfast Tea (regular or decaf) will be served.  The diner’s supplier sells a tin of 200 regular teabags for $35 and a tin of 200 decaf teabags for $40.  On an average, 150 customers drink hot tea every week, half of them drinking decaf. How many tins of each should the diner purchase every month? How much should be budgeted annually for the purchase of teabags?  If one fourth of the tea drinkers want a thin slice of lemon with their tea, and there are 8 slices per lemon, how many lemons should the diner have at the ready every week?

blue moon

Tunes for Blue Moons 

  • “Moonlight Serenade”, by Glenn Miller. HUGE hit in 1939.  HUGE.  This melody was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1991.  We talked about Glenn and listened for his trombone.

  • “Rhapsody in Blue”, by George Gershwin.  This piece was written for piano solo and jazz band, and was composed in one big hurry (5 weeks!), premiering in 1924.  We love this video, showcasing not only Leonard Bernstein at the piano, but also clarinet master Stanley Drucker.

  • “Clair de Lune” (the 3rd movement of his “Suite Bergamasque”) (we did not know that!), by Claude Debussy, published in 1905.  Soothing to the extreme.  This video clip features piano virtuoso, Claudio Arrau, and was recorded in 1991, when Arrau was 88!  This should give us all hope!

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Farm Fresh

farm book   cupolas

We have a new “IT” book: “Farm Anatomy” by Julia Rothman, published in 2011. Many, many aspects of farm life are competently presented with brief text and skillful illustrations.  As per usual, we are studying only two pages at a time.   The past few nights we’ve learned about crop rotation, windbreaks, and barn design.  This book is a jewel!

We continue with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:  Last night we read about Titania awakening (under a spell) and falling immediately and deeply in love with Nick Bottom (who at this point was sporting the donkey head).  LOVE THIS.  Meanwhile, a troop of actors is rehearsing their version of Ovid’s “Pyramus and Thisbe” for the Duke’s wedding, so we took a side trip to Wikipedia to see what “Pyramus and Thisbe” was really all about.  What a pleasure to slowly savor this complicated masterpiece.

 red pastel

We take time for art: we have been getting messy with pastels! We are using Prismacolor’s Nupastels.  Good for working on finger-motor control, fun to see what happens when one color crosses on top of another color.

Last night’s Farmer Brown Story Problem: “Farmers’ Friendly Mercantile”, the huge farm supply store in town, is having a 40%-Off-Everything-Sale AND Farmer Brown has a “15% off!” coupon for the FFM tucked in his wallet, so now is the perfect time to purchase heavy winter coats for his 8 farm hands.  If each jacket originally sells for $120, how much will Farmer Brown pay for the 8 coats (assuming both discounts will be honored), before tax is added?

chickens

Our music theme last night was “Melodies from the Chicken Coop”! We listened to:

  • Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 (1785), dubbed “The Hen” – many of Haydn’s symphonies ended up with nicknames usually due to some VERY SMALL rhythmic or melodic reference. In this case, “hen sounds” are found about a minute and a half into the first movement.  BTW, this performance by Camerata Bern (a Bern, Switzerland chamber orchestra that does not use a conductor) is outstanding.

  • “The Hen”, from “The Birds” (1928), a suite for small orchestra by Ottorino Respighi.  This short piece is wonderfully successful at transposing the sounds of chicken squawks and that jerky back-and-forth movement of the hen’s heads into music.  (Well, that was a long awkward sentence, but you get the idea?)

  • “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little”, from “The Music Man” (1957) by Meredith Willson.  This song is a hen party set to music – the gossiping town ladies sound like clucking hens and the bobbing feathers on their large hats accentuate the impression.

  • “Chicken Reel” was originally composed by Joseph M. Daly in 1910. In 1946, LeRoy Anderson arranged “Chicken Reel” for full orchestra, and did he ever gild the lily! Hysterical perfection. Watch out! The inmates are running the asylum!

 Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Affordable Housing Forever

crab 1 crab 2 crab 3

Our study of invertebrates concluded with an in-depth look at hermit crabs, one of nature’s super-star recyclers.  My son learned that hermit crabs take over shells left behind by snails…the snail dies and disintegrates, but the shell remains in prime condition for hundreds and hundreds of years.  As the hermit crab grows, he houses himself in larger and larger shells.  We learned that the posterior of the hermit crab is soft and curvy so it can easily back into a shell (miraculous and yet, a teeny bit repulsive).  We bid a regretful farewell to Susan Middleton’s book, “Spineless”.  Terrific resource.

Our Farmer Brown story problem last night – we calculated the number of stitches in a pair of striped boot-socks that Farmer Brown just knit for himself (seriously, more than 6,000 stitches).

A new unit! Chemistry.  I need a pair of Farmer Brown’s socks because I am quaking in my boots about this chemistry unit.  I did serve as a lab assistant for my high school chemistry teacher, but as I recall, my primary responsibility was to manage donut orders for all of the science teachers. We are using a DK book, so I know the images will be fantastic.  We’ll just see how this goes.

Maestro Matching – I gave my son two matching tests last night – first we matched symphony composers with famous compositions. Then I gave my son a list of composers and he placed them in chronological order.  Yay!  A+.

 drucker

Music: Last night was VIRTUOSO NIGHT showcasing clarinetist Stanley Drucker! While listening to “Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin” on the car radio last week, we heard Mr. McGlaughlin talk about clarinet player, Stanley Drucker.  AWESOMENESS: in 1948, at age 19, Stanley Drucker was appointed principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (let’s just think about THAT for a moment), and he retired in 2009.  The math: Stanley Drucker served as principal clarinetist for the NYPO for 60+ years!!!!!!!! (this really calls for 60 exclamation points!).  This is the sort of thing that grabs our attention, and listening to him play flew to the top of our priority list.

  • First, a short youtube video celebrating his 60 year tenure with the NYPO:

  • Then we listened to Mr. Drucker play Brahms’ “Clarinet Sonata No. 1 in F Minor”.
  • Then we listened to the “Doppio Movimento” movement (the “Simple Gifts” variation) of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, played by the NYPO.  The clarinet is paramount in this piece.
  • Finally, we watched a show-stopping performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, with Leonard Bernstein conducting AND playing the piano, and Stanley Drucker beginning the piece as no one else could:

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Textbooks – if we ruled the world

We want textbooks that make us pay attention  –

  • by captivating us with quirky information
  • by taking us behind the scenes, so that we gain a sympathetic understanding of the facts
  • by luring us in with intriguing graphics

textbooks 5

We want textbooks that we cannot wait to open each night.  Books like these:

  • Usborne Books – “Explorers”: so excellent
  • DK Eyewitness Books – “Gandhi”: perfection
  • Peter Sis Books – WHOA. Works of art with great information. We learned so much about Columbus, Darwin, and Galileo from the Sis books.
  • Bill Nye Books – information peppered with funniness and energy
  • Stephen and Lucy Hawking Books – “George’s Secret Key to the Universe” and “George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt”, both make staggering concepts easy to understand by deftly weaving them into story format.
  • “Music Was It” by Susan Goldman Rubin – such an interesting biography of Leonard Bernstein
  • “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space” by Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman – anybody who reads this blog knows that we LOVE-to-the-power-of-10 this book.
  • “Moonshot” by Brian Floca – spectacular book about the flight of Apollo 11
  • “A Child’s Book of Art” by Lucy Micklethwaite – my son LOVES this book. He reads it every day, and we are on our third copy.
  • “A Really Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson – quirky information delivered in enthusiastic Bryson style

tip jar

Last night’s story problem from “Le Fictitious Local Diner” – There are 3 waitresses working the morning shift at the café, and on Saturday, they split a tip jar that contained $57.  The 4 waitresses that work the afternoon shift split a tip jar that contained $78.  Who went home with more tip money – a morning or an afternoon waitress?

 tea cups

Last night’s music program celebrated TEA TIME. We learned about theme and variation and the concept of orchestration by focusing upon the classic American sweetheart melody, “Tea for Two”.

  • First, “Tea for Two”, written by Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar for the 1924 Broadway smash-hit, “No, No, Nanette”.  ADORABLE (and makes us want to know what a sugar cake is).

  • Second, “Tea for Two” as interpreted by Dmitri Shostakovich in 1927. Long story short: Shostakovich won 100 rubles by re-orchestrating “Tea for Two” in less than one hour, after listening ONE TIME to a recording of the song. It SPARKLES!

  • Next, in 1939, jazz pianist great, Art Tatum put his spin on “Tea for Two”. FANTASTIC.

  • And then, oh my gosh, The Lawrence Welk TV Show (1951-1971) featured “Tea for Two” SIXTY SEVEN times during the course of its long broadcast run. I just don’t know what to say about this variation; I am still stunned on so many levels. On the plus side, my son was mesmerized by the two musicians demonstrating such skill on (the duck-billed platypus of instruments) the accordion.

 Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH