Recommended Reading

Reading About Thanksgiving for Families

I do have a collection of  books about Thanksgiving that we annually read, and they range from serious to fun.  Thankfully our local library also has a wonderful collection of Thanksgiving books, so that I can avoid adding onto our house because of the need for more book shelves. 🙂  So, here are some favorites of ours that we own and borrow.  (Note: all book covers are used from Amazon pictures!)

When her family is going through a hard time, Mary struggles to be grateful.  By hearing about the sacrifices of the early settlers, she is inspired to be thankful for all that she does have.

This story talks about the real heroes of the first Thanksgiving: the Native Americans who shared what they had with the desperate Pilgrims.

This book is one we have enjoyed in the past: a fun way of presenting a familiar story.

Beautifully illustrated thankful reflections!

The almost unknown woman (Sarah Hale) whose campaign led to a day set aside for giving thanks!

A family’s annual tradition is in jeopardy due to the weather!

I first found these other titles when I was a classroom teacher.  They are just fun!

For all animal fans!

An unexpected twist to Thanksgiving Day!

I almost have this one memorized.  Again – an unexpected ending

And for families …

This beautiful book is intended to be a family keepsake with space for families to write annual reflections.  (Alas, I have not kept on mine – maybe this year? )   The story of the original Thanksgiving is included, as well as a free audio cd full of Thanksgiving music.

Categories: Annual Events, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Just Where Is Nebraska Anyway?: Me on the Map

On a high school missions trip to California/Mexico, I was a bit surprised that many of my new found friends were completely unfamiliar with Nebraska.  They had a vague idea that it was a state in the middle of the country, but many of them had not given the Midwest much thought at all.  We used this fact to our advantage, convincing many of them (at least for awhile), that a frequent Nebraska activity was going out cow tipping.  Evidently they missed taking a simple geography class.

For one of our homeschool co-op classes this trimester, we are featuring this important subject of geography.  I get the privilege of co-teaching eight energetic kindergarten-first graders about the world.  Until this class, I am not sure that I recognized just how abstract the concept of “place” can be for younger ones.

Previously, I had used the book Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney and Annette Cable in teaching my own kids.  This book does an excellent job at putting a child’s own places in order: room, house, street, town, state, country, continent, planet. Progressive steps to explain a distant reality.

Book cover image from Amazon

As I was looking for interactive geography ideas, I was very excited to find a mom that had taken the time to plan an activity that would bring this book to life for the young ones!  Finally in First originate the activity, and then Teach Mama added her own spin. Circles of varying sizes to show all of the places each child can call home.  The largest one is earth, and then the smallest of the seven circles is house.

This project did take a bit to duplicate for 8 people.  I cut out most of the circles in advance.  Partly to fit them in the baggies, partly because I knew that even the gluing part was going to take a bit of time.  This lesson needed to emphasize understanding places, not the cutting or gluing part – requiring both would have taken too long.

I did follow their suggested links to finish the projects.  Your Child Learns has one of the best collections of online maps that I have seen.  I did use their Nebraska map.  I liked the fact that they included several major cities and major rivers.  I printed a copy, then shrunk it down 50% to get the map to fit on the “state circle.”  For multiple copies, I was able to fit four of these 50% size Nebraska maps on one page.

If you are looking to help your child or students understand the abstract concept of places that are personally relevant, the above activity is a great one.  If you are wanting to simply introduce the idea of a map, the book There’s a Map on my Lap is a fun one.

Book cover image from Amazon

This title is from the “Cat in the Hat” learning series.  In true Seuss fashion, Author Tish Rabe uses nonsensical places to begin to explain the concepts of maps.  The book is FULL of information.  My students did not appreciate the fact that I would stop after each page for a brief further explanation of the skills presented.  (They just wanted to enjoy the book! 🙂 )  Always a good deal to learn more about maps.  After all, everyone should know where Nebraska is located!

Categories: Activities @ Home, Recommended Reading, Region or City, Where to Begin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Indigo Bridge Books: Lincoln’s Local Wonderful Bookstore

Indigo Bridge Books Sign

If you have ever been to Indigo Bridge Books once, you have probably been back.  Maybe it is a bit the setting – in an older “classic” Lincoln building, full of warmth and charm.

Indigo Bridge Books Coffee Counter

Or maybe you go back for “The Cafe.”  Their gourmet coffee.  Their featured food items from local bakeries.  A quiet place to study and reflect or enjoy conversation.  And maybe Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays find you eating lunch at “The Table”,  lunch that involves soup and bread and, more importantly, community and conversation.

Or maybe you go back for your kids.  Because they want to play at the train table.  Or sit in the rocking chair.  Or browse around at books perfectly placed at their level.  Or they want to check out the games section.  Or the child-sized musical instruments.  Accordion anyone?  (Just know that once you are there, it is hard to get the kids to want to leave!)

Indigo Bridge Books Tree

Part of the tree that stands in the middle of the kids section at the store.

Maybe beyond playing, you want your kids to have a learning experience.  So you attend IndiZOO events – a unique experience that involves a special story time that features an animal story, craft and a live animal that comes to visit from the zoo!  (From personal experience, IndiZOO is a FUN morning!)  Or you want to attend one of three story times that feature books and crafts.  The Saturday morning one is even bilingual.

Indigo Bridge Books Local Sign

Or maybe you simply like the idea of a local bookstore that features a wide selection of books.  And numerous possibilities for growth and learning.  While they may not stock every published book, they will gladly order what you are missing.  They even have a book exchange.  A lovely place to settle in for an afternoon of coziness.

Indigo Bridge Books Poster

Whatever your reason, once you have visited Indigo Bridge Books, you will be back.  Check them out at their location in the Creamery Building (701 P St. in the Lincoln Haymarket).  Or visit them on Facebook to learn more.


Categories: Lincoln, Metro, Recommended Reading, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Friday Flashback: Using Quilts to Interpret Nebraska History

When pioneer women sewed quilts, they were not looking to write history.  They were simply piecing together warmth for their family.  While a few perhaps created for the sake of art, survival was more of their focus.

I had hoped to write about this topic last week right after I talked about the International Quilt Museum and Study Center.  As that ended up being multiple entries anyway, this post was put off.  But since quilts are such an important part of pioneer history and thus an integral part in the past of Nebraska, I decided this was an essential topic.  Once I began to research, I was surprised to see the name of one of the authors on the title of a book referencing this title.

This book cover photo is courtesy of Amazon.

Stephanie Grace Whitson has been a favorite author of mine for years.  She is a Nebraskan who has set many of her fictional stories in this state.  Since reading a novel is an enjoyable way to learn parts of history, I know that she has educated me on Nebraska’s past simply through her ability to tell a wonderful tale.  While the majority of books that I read I now check out from the library, I actually own all of her books.  At least I thought I did – evidently I was only managing to keep up with her fictional titles.

So, I checked out the title, Home on the Plains: Quilts and Sod House Experience, that she coauthored with her friend, Kathleen Moore.  And I am positive that the title will eventually find its way to my library.  What a delightful book!  Interspersed with the stories of hardy pioneer women are photographs of their quilts.  Reading diary excerpts of those who endured and helped to transform the barren land into the Nebraska of today reminded me of just what a challenge being a settler was.

The book is divided into three sections …

  1. Arriving
  2. Settling In
  3. Staying On
  4. Quilt Projects

You read correctly – if you are a quilter, patterns of eight pioneer quilt projects are included.    Complete with patterns, instructions and color photograph examples.  The authors actually quilted many of the examples themselves.  The research is meticulous, and the story is captivating.  I will soon be reading the book cover to cover.  If  you are not a quilter, the project section also includes the background story of each quilt, so that was even interesting to me.  Rather than me expounding on pioneer quilts, I am going to simply recommend that you get a copy of the book!

The book might just inspire you to want to learn even more about pioneer quilts in Nebraska,  Although I have not necessarily previewed these, here are some additional books specifically about the history of quilting in Nebraska.

Nebraska Quilts and Quiltmakers by Patricia Cox Crews and Ronald C. Naugle

A Prairie Homecoming by Mary Obrist (Nebraska State Quilt Guild)

Sod House Treasures and Other Nebraska Quilt Patterns by Jan Stehlik

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum also has excellent online resources for exploring more.  One of the quilters featured in the Home on the Plains book mentioned above is Grace Snyder.  A whole online exhibit has been developed telling the story of how she has influenced quilting in Nebraska.  They plan to add stories of more Nebraska quilters in the future.

Quilt Chronicles Collage

P.S. If you enjoy reading fiction like I do, Stephanie Grace Whitson’s current Quilt Chronicles series features quilts as a backdrop.  All three titles are written about  Southeastern Nebraska and explain varying aspects of the pioneer culture.  Based on experiences that were happening during the early settlements of the area, I would highly recommend each of them.  Wonderful books to read!  For a complete list of titles and to learn more about the author, please visit Stephanie Grace Whitson’s blog.


Categories: Flashback Fridays, Lincoln, Metro, Recommended Reading, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Inspired by the International Quilt Study Center and Museum: Reading to Kids About Quilts

As you may have gathered from previous posts, one of my favorite things to do with my kids is read books with them.  From my years of being a classroom teacher and now a homeschool mom, I have compiled a plethora of book lists.  (In fact, on occasion a librarian has been known to ask me to suggest a title for a particular need during one of of our weekly library visits.)  I could probably be considered a book collector too with having probably a few thousand books.  I love to read on my own and to my children.

So naturally, if I want to introduce a topic to my kids, books are often involved.  Especially fictional ones as hearing a story often helps in relating and  remembering.  So, without further explanation, here are just some of my favorite books to read to children on the topic of quilts.  Many of these books might be found at local libraries, and all of the cover pictures were taken from Amazon.

A great introduction to words.

And an introduction to numbers by the same author/illustrator combination.


Cover Image

By Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola – wonderful author/excellent illustrator

Cover Image

While her books tend to be longer, you can never go wrong with Patricia Polacco!

Cover Image

Old and new adventures.

Cover Image

The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills – a wonderful story about contentment and gratitude.

Cover Image

Deborah Honkinson’s books provide a wonderful history background for the Underground Railroad – a time when the shape and patterns of quilts took on a new significance.

Paulette Bourgeois’ story about life’s transitions.

I hope that one of the books on the list will become a new family favorite.

4 being thankful

I planned on putting a picture on each one of my November posts stating what I am grateful for.  I did not remember to do that on my first two posts – how quickly I forget.  So, I will be going back and adding what I am grateful for.    Because I really do want to be more thankful – blessings abound in my life.






Categories: Nebraska History, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nebraska Stories: Sharing the Tales of Nebraskans

I promise that I will be posting more about quilts in the next few days.  First I am taking a quick detour.  Normally I am all about going out for adventures.  But tomorrow I am encouraging you to stay home.  Read on to find out why. 🙂 

If I admit that I really enjoy watching public television, does that officially make me old? 🙂  While we do not watch every night, when we do tune in to NET (Nebraska Educational Television), our knowledge increases (as opposed to what happens when we watch most television shows).  I have especially enjoyed the few episodes that I have watched of the show, Nebraska Stories.  Obviously learning about the people and places of Nebraska is always enjoyable for me!

So, when NET approached me about reviewing their latest show that premieres tomorrow night, November 1st,  I was happy to do so.  They combined quite diverse topics into a fluent piece.   Below is a bit about each of the four segments and my own personal take on each topic.  (The “bold” words are  the description directly from Nebraska Educational Television.  The pictures were provided from NET as well.)

DAY OF THE DEAD – Join us on Día de los Muertos as we look death in the eye with humor, music, dancing — and art.


When my kids and I studied Mexico a few years ago, I was a bit taken aback by this holiday that features skeletons.  Although the celebration date is around our Halloween, their holiday is not about creepiness but is instead about honoring ancestors.  While this may not be a holiday that is celebrated in our home, I definitely want my kids to understand the distinctness of other culture’s celebrations. This segment does an excellent job of explaining this Mexican holiday and how the day is celebrated in Nebraska.

And if you want to give your children either an introduction or a follow-up to this holiday, here are some excellent children’s picture books.

Mary Molina and the Days of the Dead by Kathleen Krull

Ghost Wings by Barbara Joose

Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston (He has several  great books about Mexican culture)

NEVER FORGET – A Holocaust education program in Omaha resurrects the music and art of a place called Terezin.

Never Forget4

My grandpa was a liberator in World War 2.  Because of the horrors of seeing those who had survived concentration camps, he did not share too many of his experiences.  But this is a part of history that we must not forget.  The Institute for Holocaust Education is the organization that leads the tours that happen at the Strategic Air and Space Museum near Ashland.  This segment provides a glimpse behind some of the excellent education that they provide to keep the stories alive.

We have a studied a bit about this topic in our homeschool.  I want my children to be aware that the world is not such a beautiful place all of the time.  But I also want them to not be scared.  Here are again some excellent books that I think help with expanding on the segment from NET.

My favorite one: Erika’s Story by Ruth Vander Zee (a true story of sacrifice)

The Harmonica  by Tony Johnston is based on a true story how one boy survived the holocaust

My Secret Camera: Life in the Lodz Ghetto  by Mendel Grossman which gives glimpses into what really happened in these World War 2 ghettos

Music for the End of Time  by Jen Bryant which is based on true on of another way that the arts helped with survival

Here is a link some more educational resources from the IHE.  At our local library, there are many additional books available directly about Terezin.  As I am unfamiliar with most of them, I do not feel that I can recommend any personally, but they would be worth checking into.

MIRACLE ON THE PRAIRIE  – A century ago, in the town of Axtell, a new kind of care began for people with intellectual disabilities.


As we have relatives from the Axtell area, I immediately embraced the story of a community that strives to make a difference in this special segment of people.  I agreed with their philosophy of reaching out to others personally, rather than leaving that up to the government.  I was definitely inspired to continue to love my neighbor, no matter who he or she might be.

To learn more, please visit Mosaic’s website.

DREAM CAR AUCTION  – The sights and sounds of the Lambrecht survivor car auction in Pierce, Nebraska.

Auction 5

My husband happens to own a 1964 Chevy Impala.  Unfortunately for him, the poor car sits under a tarp.  As the appreciation of classic cars runs in both of our families, I know that we would have enjoyed attending this auction of “new” old Chevrolets.  We did not make it to Pierce that week-end. So I am glad that NET did, so that we all can have a small glimpse into what happened at that unprecedented car auction.


November 1, 2013 – 7:30pm on NET1/HD
November 1, 2013 – 10:30pm on NET1/HD
November 4, 2013 – 10:00pm on NET1/HD
Can’t wait?  Here is a preview.
And if you missed their spring episode, you can still watch it online.
Categories: Lewis and Clark, Metro, Prairie Lakes, Recommended Reading, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuesday: Thoughts on Traveling

This week in our homeschool, we have been delighting in Robert McCloskey’s books.  With two Caldecott honor books and two Caldecott medal titles, you can be assured that he is an amazing illustrator and writer.  He did not write a long list of titles, but the ones he wrote are wonderful.  And if you have ever read Blueberries for Sal or Make Way for Ducklings, you have read McCloskey.

(Book cover courtesy of Amazon).

One of his lesser known titles (that also won a Caldecott Medal) is Time of Wonder.  His books are set in New England, the area near his home, but I think McCloskey also manages to convey how I feel about Nebraska.  Several nights  in September I was gone from home – some of them with my family, some with friends.  I could have stayed longer at both places, yet I know that I would have longed to come home soon.  The ending lines of Time of Wonder capture my thoughts on traveling.

A little bit sad about the place you are leaving …

Fort Robinson towers

A little bit glad about the place you are going …

little boys on the porch

It’s a time of quiet wonder.

Mahoney path

P.S. The above porch picture features two of the five reasons I am more than just a little glad to go home!  🙂

Categories: Metro, Panhandle, Recommended Reading, Region or City, Where to Begin | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Art in Nebraska with Children

Is taking a preschooler to the art museum a crazy idea? No.  But that may not be the right place to start introducing your child to art.  Or I should rephrase that – the best place to first acquaint your children with fine art might involve a library card and a comfy cuddle chair.  Exposing your little ones to quality picture books is a great starting point.

Here are a few of our favorite illustrators

David Catrow: He does mainly cartoon illustrations that are always delightful!

This book has become an annual tradition in our house every Thanksgiving.  Over the River and Through the Woods illustrated by David Catrow

Ed Young: He usually has an Asian focus to his books – amazing illustrations!

Alice Provensen: Her illustrations evoke colonial and other time periods of long ago.  Classics.

Robert McCloskey: With only about a dozen books to his name, two won the Caldecott medal (see below for explanation) and two won the Caldecott honorable mention.  When you see his books, you will understand why!

Marcia Brown: Her illustrations evoke nostalgia and are classic block prints.

Eric Carle: His illustrations are whimsical and striking and enjoyable and …  These you have read to your kids without knowing their significance (such as Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?.  A whole book has been devoted to just his art and is amazing in and of itself.

The Eric Carle PIcture Book Museum also edited a book entitled Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Take to Children About Their Work – filled with various picture book artists.

Need even more ideas: This is the list from the American Library Assocation of all of the Caldecott Medal and Honor Books from 1938.  That award is given to the best picture book of the year.  (Note: While the illustrations in these books are amazing, I would definitely preview them for content.  Some of them may not be appropriate for young (or older) children in my opinion).

And one last list: Best Children’s Books Illustrators from Children’s Books Guide

Books About Art: Children’s Books Illustrated with Works of Art

My favorite author of this focus is Lucy Micklethwait.  Her “I Spy in Art” series is incredible.  The kids naturally engage in her books without even realizing they are actually exploring major artworks.

Richard Muhlberger has a whole series on specific artists (What Makes a Picasso a Picasso for instance)

Gladys Blizzard has a whole other series for children on looking for specific items in artworks.

For older children, Anna Nilsen wrote several books on identifying certain characteristics in art.  Of course, the kids actually think they are solving the mystery of which art is authentic and which one is stolen.

Narrowing your search to children’s titles, then searching “art appreciation” will lead to the discovery of even more titles.  (Note: all picture book covers were taken off the Amazon site – the titles can be purchased there for various prices and may also be available at your local area library)

Now on to visiting art galleries  …

I have taken our kids to museum.  And left without owing the place a bunch of money for destroyed artwork.  In fact, everything was intact.  Usually.  (More on that near the end of the entry about our recent trip to the Sheldon Museum of Art).

A view at the Joslyn

The Joslyn Art Museum can be found in Omaha.  They happen to feature backpacks that you can “check out” for children and then go on a scavenger hunt throughout the museum.  Paper is provided, so that you can create your own masterpieces.

What I think the key is to introducing kids to art museums and galleries: pick a place near your home, so that you can start slowly.  I have learned that my kids tend to get out of control when they are tired.  So if an hour or two at a museum makes you exhausted, imagine what that does to your kids!  So, twenty to thirty minutes may be about perfect.  Unless …

You manage to get them engaged in the artworks.  Some days this will work – sometimes it may not.  Follow the ideas from the art picture books – play “I Spy.”  At the Sheldon, they have black benches in the middle of each of the permanent display galleries.  You can sit together in the middle and search for shapes, colors, numbers and even certain objects.  This way you are out of range of the artworks but still are experiencing the art.  Some of the paintings are easy to engage with and others may stretch your mind a bit.  And you may want to choose your angle carefully depending on the museum.

Sheldon Mickey Mouse

What child would not enjoy seeing this painting that is on permanent display at the Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln?

Another great place to start is at a sculpture garden.  Since these are usually located outdoors, the pieces tend to be a bit more indestructible.  Plus often they involve a bit more of using your imagination.

Indian smoke signals at Pioneer Park

One of the many fun sculptures that you can find scattered throughout Pioneer’s Park in Lincoln.

One final note: as with books, you may want to preview art exhibits, especially if you tend to be conservative or have sensitive children.  While I respect the right of others to create art, I personally reserve my right to withhold my children from experiencing that art, especially when they are young!

P.S. Needing some ideas of places to go to begin experiencing art?  Here is a link to the eight Nebraska galleries featured in the Nebraska Passport program this year.


Categories: Recommended Reading, Travel Tips, Where to Begin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

C is for Cornhusker: A Nebraska Alphabet

With the start of school, perhaps you have a little one who is learning to read.  We have a first grader in our house who is learning to read and to put letters into combinations that make words.  A great way to do that is through using lots of alphabet books

Four years ago, when I had another first grader, we learned about the United States this way.  Through incredible efforts made by the wonderful interlibrary loan librarian, Jean, we read the “Sleeping Bear Press” alphabet book on every SINGLE state!  (That was when ILL was free – we utilized their services often for our education). The series is amazing, partly due to the incredible illustrations and partly due to the conceptualization of each state.  A four stanza line for each alphabet letter helps the book read like a story.  But if you have extra time, you can read the lengthier captions on the side for more detailed information on the topic.  (Thankfully now our library has many of the titles since unfortunately we no longer can get free Interlibrary loans, even for educational purposes!)

C is for Cornhusker

Of course my favorite book is C is for Cornhusker.   Rajean Luebs Shepherd did a wonderful work that captures the essence of our state.  Here is just one of the letters to give you a glimpse into the format …

E is the early Explorers

who up the Missouri embarked

on an exciting expedition

led by Lewis and Clark.

Then by reading the caption,  you can learn more about how Lewis and Clark were a part of the history of Nebraska.  If you are lacking on Nebraska history due to possibly not growing up here (or maybe missing a bit in class), this book would be a lovely volume to get you caught up on what represents Nebraska.  Many Nebraska libraries have the book, but I would highly recommend the book to anyone who loves Nebraska, even if you are way beyond learning the alphabet!  The author has also written an additional book called Husker Numbers where she counts through the state in much the same format.  Both great books to check out!

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Tractor and Other Such Farming Books in Nebraska

Perhaps touring a farm is not in your near future.  But you can definitely read more about farming and agriculture, no matter where you are .

If You’re Not From the Prairie … by David Bouchard

Tractor Day by Candice Ransom

 Tractor by Craig Brown (beautiful illustrations!)

A Cow’s Alfafa-bet by Woody Jackson

Chicken, Chicken, Duck by Nadia Krilanovich (animal sounds)

Heartland by Diane Siebert (lovely!)

There is absolutely no educational value in this next book, but the entertainment value is high.  This is one of my 8 year old’s absolutely favorite books.  Still.

Farmer McPeepers and His Missing Milk Cows by Katy Duffield

P.S. If you live in the Lincoln area, I have a longer list of book titles that our library has for checkout.   Please just e-mail for the titles.   Many of the books were rather expensive to purchase now.  For simplicity’s sake, I used Amazon book links, so you could see the covers as well as the titles.

Categories: Agriculture, Recommended Reading | 2 Comments

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