Early Readers: Pirate Adventures!

By , February 26, 2009 9:26 pm

In my never ending quest for good early readers, I recently stumbled upon this “treasure” for pirate-loving boys: Treasure Island – Easy Reader Classics Series.  I bought the first two of the set of four for my 6 year-old son who was in need of some interesting reading material.

My son is currently at that awkward, in-between phase of reading acquisition. Even the most advanced Bob Books and other phonics-style readers are too easy and boring, but full-on chapter books are a bit too hard and could lead to frustration.

This Treasure Island series seemed to be just the ticket. Each book is part of an ultra-simplified and abridged version of the classic adventure tale by Robert Louis Stevenson. They describe the adventures of a boy named Jim who, after finding an old treasure map, winds up on a ship in search of the lost treasure. Of course Jim must outwit the pirates who are also seeking the treasure. Is this not the dream of many young boys out there?

My son LOVED the first two books so much (he read them immediately one after the other), that I had to get online right away and order the last two. I am not exaggerating when I say that he was literally counting the days until his books arrived. When they did, he ripped open the box and devoured them both right away.  Any book that has that sort of effect on my new-reader son gets my 5 star recommendation!!

There are other Easy Reader Classics series too: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Jungle Book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, and The Wind in the Willows. We’ll definitely be trying another set soon.

Reading Level Facts:

  • Each book is 32 pages long and is divided into four chapters so young readers can feel that they are reading a true “chapter book.”
  • The type is fairly large and there are just a few sentences on each page which is a perfect layout for short, young attention spans.
  • There are many large, colorful illustrations that I actually found to be somewhat mediocre in quality, but my son didn’t seem to mind.


Clothing – Dollhouse Rag Rug (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , February 22, 2009 8:25 pm


The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was clothing. We had a few ideas, but ultimately decided to experiment with weaving strips of fabric made from an old shirt.

First: the nasty shirt.

This is a shirt that had been a comfortable favorite of mine for quite some time. Too much time. It was stretched and shapeless and discolored.  Très chic, don’t you think?   I knew it was time for the shirt and I to part company. But since I didn’t even think it was in decent enough shape to donate, it was clearly a perfect candidate for shredding.

I cut the sleeves off, and then cut the shirt in half along the seams. I cut the side and bottom seams off, as well as the neck. I was left with two flat pieces of fabric.

The kids thought I had gone mad at first when they saw me cutting up my shirt, but then they got into the spirit of the moment and I had a hard time getting my cut up shirt back to finish the job!

We cut each section of the shirt into an oval shape and then began cutting it into a single spiral strip about 1/2 inch wide (approx 1.25 cm).

This was the result:

We wound the two lots of cloth into balls:

Next we got out our $2.00 picture frame loom. I warped it with the fabric by winding a single strip up and down around the nails.  I have seen this done, but … hmmm… I didn’t like it much.

This was an experiment. Next time, I would warp it like our yarn dollhouse rug, by cutting single strips and tying one on each set of nails. We got a bit confused because there were two warp strips on each nail. Since this rug was “rustic,” a few mistakes didn’t really matter.  In fact one could optimistically say that they actually enhanced the rug.  But now I know that I prefer to have one warp string on each nail.

I wrapped the cloth around the shuttle and we began weaving.

To finish it up, I lifted each loop off the nail, cut it, and tied the two ends together in a sturdy knot.

The final result:

We used it to keep the dolls’ feet toasty in their bathroom, but it could also be a potholder, or even a dish washing cloth (that’s what my husband thought it was).


If you did a clothing Unplugged Project this week, then please link to your project in the Mr. Linky below. If not, then follow the links to everyone’s project and enjoy! If you are interested in learning more about how to join us, then please read about it here. We’d love to have you!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:




I Lost a Comment!!!

By , February 20, 2009 7:55 pm

I am SO SORRY! I have been having “issues” with my Word Press “admin panel” for being very, v-e-r-y, V–E–R–Y slow. The other day I lost a comment. I am so sorry! Somebody put a link to a project of mine that they had tried and wanted me to go see. I would love to go see but it got eaten up by the horrible technical malfunction monster! I am so sorry! If you think this might be you, then please comment again. SO sorry!

Betsy-Tacy (Maud Hart Lovelace) – Another Great Chapter Book

By , February 17, 2009 10:44 pm

I find so much good stuff by surfing Amazon!  Having no “real” bookstore here and only a tiny library, it is one of my best ways for discovering great books.

One of our latest wonderful reads is Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace.  I believe it is something of a classic although it was new to me.  Hopefully I am not demonstrating my ignorance of classic children’s literature by recommending it, but recommend it I do!

The story revolves around two five year old neighbors, Betsy and Tacy, who become such inseparable friends, that the title of the book must be Betsy-Tacy (rather than Betsy and Tacy, get it?):

“Betsy’s brown braids went with Tacy’s red curls, Betsy’s plump legs with Tacy’s spindly ones…” (p.1)

Betsy is outgoing, Tacy is shy.  But, after a rocky start, opposites do attract and the pair become a “unit” as suggested by the title.

The girls enjoy simple adventures, mostly involving a lot of imagination.  It is all very sweet and innocent and charming.  There is nothing that I could find to scare particularly sensitive readers.  Even I enjoyed reading a bit further along every night before bedtime.

The only potentially upsetting moment is when Tacy’s baby sister dies of an illness.  The episode is not really about Baby Bee, but the focus is on how Betsy sweetly comforts sad Tacy.  It was well-handled and my rather sensitive children were not upset by it at all.

The author Maud Hart Lovelace was born in Mankato, Minnesota in 1892.  This series of books is about her memories of her childhood, “…the happiest childhood a child could possibly know…” (quote from Maud Hart Lovelace, inside of back cover).

The author is Betsy, right down to the straight hair that wouldn’t curl.  Her lifelong best friend Frances Kenney (known as “Bick” – baby-talk for “Brick” – due to her red curls) is the model for Tacy.  The pair met at Maud’s 5th birthday party, just as Betsy and Tacy meet at Betsy’s 5th birthday.

The book has a very interesting section at the end about Maud Hart Lovelace and her life, complete with some photos of both her and “Bick.”  For even more information, there is a Betsy-Tacy Society in Mankato with its own website:  www.betsy-tacysociety.org.  There are all kinds of Betsy-Tacy gifts to buy and events to attend that you can discover here.

Hmmm…..I guess these books are way more popular than I realized.


PS.  We’ll be reading all the others ASAP.  By the way, although these books would obviously appeal to girls, my 6 year-old son was just as captivated as his 8 year-old sister.  If you have a young boy, you might want to try one from the library because he just might love it also!


Wrinkle – Batik Book Covers (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , February 15, 2009 8:56 pm


The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project is wrinkle.  We decided to do a little batik and experiment with wrinkling the wax.

You will need a piece of fabric (a natural fiber works best, we used a piece cut off of an old cotton sheet), wax, and a dye.  We almost used beet juice, but finally decided on blue food coloring.   As usual, I was ill-prepared and had no wax so we just melted some candle stubs.  If you melt candles, be thoughtful about your choice of colors since colored wax will dye the fabric.

First we melted the candles in a tin can set in a pan of boiling water.  We had white candles and green so we melted them separately and planned on using the green to help color our fabric.

We laid the cloth out on some wax paper and poured the wax on it.  Be careful, the can will be very hot!  First the white:

Then the green:

As you can see, we tried to cover most of the fabric since we really wanted to see the effect of wrinkling and cracking the wax.  If you would like a different effect, then just cover parts of the fabric with wax, or pour on a design or pattern.  The dye will not stick to any waxed portion of the fabric:

We let the wax dry and cool completely.  The cloth was now as stiff as cardboard.

We crumpled and scrunched the stiff fabric and created cracks.

We put some blue food coloring in a bowl of cold water (hot would melt, or at least soften, the wax), and then we pushed the wax covered cloth in with a spoon.  We left it in for an hour and the exposed areas turned a very pale blue. This step might not have been necessary, but at least it got the fabric wet and ready for more dye.

Next we laid the cloth out on a foil-lined baking sheet and dropped straight food coloring on to the cracks and spread it around.

What I learned – be sure to wear gloves if you are going to be handling food coloring!  (This photo was taken AFTER I had washed them several times…)

I might be blue forever.

We let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes to let the color absorb, then we set about removing the wax.  First we used knives to scrape off as much of the wax as possible.

I covered my ironing board with an old, folded towel and laid the fabric on a brown paper bag.  I covered it with another brown paper bag and ironed with the iron on the highest setting but without steam.

The wax simply melted onto the bags.  I replaced the bags a few times until no more wax appeared and it was all out of the fabric.  We also tried paper towels, since I heard that they worked too, and they did quite well also.

Here is our finished fabric.  The ironing dried it all nicely and we were able to work with it right away. Notice the green color in with the blue?  The green is from the green candle wax, and is why we chose blue food coloring because we thought the two colors would look pretty together.

We had two little old notebooks that we covered with the dyed cloth using fabric glue.

We added a matching ribbon bookmark, and there you have it!  A fun afternoon!


If you did a wrinkle Unplugged Project this week, then please put a link to your post in the Mr. Linky below.  If you link to the post rather than the blog, then we will always be able to find you – forever and ever!  If you did not do a wrinkle project, then please do not link, but be sure to follow the links to see the other great wrinkle projects.  If you wish to read about how to join in, then read more here.  We’d love to have you with us!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


I hope you all have fun!


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