Blog,  Book Reviews,  Home Education,  Home Education - Language Arts,  Home Education - Leaping into Literature,  Learning

Leaping into Literature: Third Time Round

leap lit wk 3 2015 5

This is our third year to embark on our annual Term 4 adventure; Leaping into Literature.  A time when we immerse ourselves in picture books, and chapter books for the older children. This ties in well with our focus this term, literacy; reading, writing and spelling, which deserves a whole post in itself, but suffice for now, we’re seeing wonderful results.  To ‘free up’ time for picture books we omit history, science and geography from our studies, though in reality we cover these in our picture books anyhow.

Our library cards are nearly maxed out, with 12 cards in the family and a capacity of 20 reservations per card, we’re already in the 200s! As our library has 5 branches it takes a while for the books to come trickling in, but we’ve had a great haul to begin with.

I do apologise for the length of this post, it is epic, well done to those who make it through.


Sharing the older children’s reads first.


Prisoner of the Black Hawk

Breath of the Dragon – A L Tait

As you can see Alison Tait’s Mapmaker’s Chronicles are all the rage here at present, even PC has read them.

Princess (14)

Prisoner of the Black Hawk

Breath of the Dragon – A L Tait

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – JK Rowling

Saint Joan, the Girl Soldier – Louis de Wohl

Princess has been on a binge read of Harry Potter. Our family ‘rite of passage’ is HP at 14 years old, Princess passed this milestone a couple of weeks ago, so once she finished her birthday gift, the Mapmaker’s Chronicles, Harry Potter was picked up and hasn’t gone down yet.  Regards Mapmaker’s Chronicles at this stage it is only available in Australia in print form, readers in the UK and USA can purchase it via ereader editions.


leap lit wk 3 2015 2

Jelly Bean (11)

Encyclopedia Brown – several

Curse of the Coins – Dianne Ahern

Lost in Peter’s Tomb – Dianne Ahern

Fantastic Fox – Roald Dahl Read this aloud for two hours straight to her brothers, totally impressed as she has been a later reader.

Jack Jack (9, later reader)

Cowboy Sam – a couple of books

Mercy Watson – a couple

Jem (7)

Cowboy Sam – a couple

A small selection of easy picture books.


Family Read Alouds (to the 11-7 year olds)

Race to the End of the World – A L Tait

John and Nanbaree – Doris Chadwick

Ongoing from last term and still not finished.

Saint Pius X, the Farm Boy Who Became Pope – Walter Diethelm

Ongoing from last term, nearly finished.


leap lit wk 3 2015 4

Picture Books (read to the 11 – 4 year olds)

We’ve read through slew of picture books this week with our younger children and the children have faithfully given them a rating for your edification.  Frankly the kids are tough critics.



An Egg is Quiet – Dianna Ashton 4 Star

Informative and attractive, we are introduced to 60 different types of eggs and many facts.


The Longest Night – Marion Dane Bauer 4 Star

The snow lies deep in the forest, the animals; the moose, the crow, the fox and the chickadee long for the dawn’s warmth.


Necks Out for Adventure – Timothy Basil Ering 3 Star

Wiggleskins live by the rule; “necks in to eat and necks out to hide.” One day all the clams are scooped up but Edwin, he goes on to have an adventure and save his family.


Monarch and Milkweed – Helen Frost 4.5 Star

Every spring the monarch butterfly migrates thousands of miles in search of the ideal milkweed plant. Living book full of information about the monarch, extra information at the back of the book.


Johnny and the Pelican – Melva Ouliaris 3 Star

A crowd waits for the pelicans to arrive on the beach for feeding time, all give up waiting only a young boy and an old man continue to wait. Warm illustrations.

Dory Story – Jerry Pallotta 3.5 Star

Danny heads out to the bay alone, he encounters plankton, the bluefish, huge tuna, killer whales and the humpback whale. He began to worry he would become part of the food chain.


The Littlest Owl – Caroline Pitcher 3.5 Star

The smallest owl struggles to fly, one night a storm forces the owls to leave their nest, the littlest owl flys to safety. Lovely illustrations.


Fly, Chick, Fly! – Jeanne Willis 3.5 Star

The owl chick refuses to fly, will she ever learn. For the very young.


leap lit wk 3 2015 1


Rain Dance – Cathy Applegate 5 Star

It hasn’t rained for two year on this farm in the Australian Outback. Suddenly storm clouds come, they dance in the rain.  The hardships, the despair and then the relief are all highlighted. Highly recommend.

The Day the Chooks Blew Away – Alan Bowater 2.5 Star

Aussie humour, light story line.


The Gum Queen – Maree Coote 2. 5 Star

Explore the ways to be an individual seed pod. A bit strange.

Junjardee and the Red Bank – Janelle Evans 4 Star

Junjardee of the Wadja country (central Queensland) is a small, hairy greedy boy. This is the story of how the elders dealt with his greed.


Fire – Jackie French 4 Star

Highlights the devastation of bushfires in Australia to people, animals and their homes.


Flood – Jackie French 4.5 Star

Flood tells the story of the 2011 Brisbane flood that devastated the City. Yet there were stories of bravery and selflessness, ordinary Aussies who lent a hand to strangers. Most memorably there arose many, many heroes whom we have not forgotten.


The Flood – Nigel Gray  2.5 Star

When the rain pours and the flood water rises Mrs Farmer invites the farm animals inside; sheep in the laundry, hens on the stairs, cows in the dining room. Slightly humorous.


The Rainbirds – David Metzenthen 3.5 Star

Gleeson waits for the winter, for the arrival of big black mountain birds who fly down from the Alpine region to shelter in his City.


First Flight – David Miller 3.5 Star

One morning Joey the yellow-bellied glider ventures forth from his nest, all day he watches life in the forest, at night he scampers back up to his nest. Written simply for the very young.


Malu Kangaroo – Judith Morecroft 3 Star

Malu Kangaroo teaches the first children how to surf, illustrations show the beauty of the North Coast of NSW.


The Glow Worm Cave – Anne Morgan 3.5 Star

Limestone blasting is disturbing the Glow Worm Cave, a cave that resonates with the echoes of people and animals of a thousand years. The town is divided as to whether to continue to blasting or not, eventually the Minister makes a decision.  An odd book, we weren’t clear about some of the threads.


Out in the Bush – Yvonne Morrison 3 Star

Set to the beat of a familiar rhythm, the author introduces various favourite native Australian animals.


Fox and Fine Feathers – Narelle Oliver 4.5 Star

Groundbirds in the rainforest look out for one another. One day they forget and a fox pounces, Nightjar is the only bird that is looking out for danger, risking himself, he alerts the others. Lovely illustrations.


The Great Rock Whale – Christine Paice 4 Star

The Great Whale searches for thousands of years for a family. He eventually stops and sleeps under a cliff, becomes part of the rocks and each year blows his greetings to the whales as they migrate past. The children were particularly drawn to this tale as it’s the story of the Kiama blow hole, a blow hole they are most familiar with as their Grandmother lives in Kiama.


The Man From Snowy River – Banjo Paterson 4.5 Star

Freya Blackwood has illustrated one of Australia’s most loved poems, always so stirring and moving. Was a little disappointed in the illustrations, as I have seen more stirring illustrations to accompany this classic.


Big Red Kangaroo – Claire Saxby 4.5 Star

Inland Big Red and his mob wait for nightfall so they can search for food. Younger male kangaroos wait for their chance to challenge Big Red. On one level runs the story line, yet we are also given extra information on each page about kangaroos. Recommended.


Ride With Me – Jane Tanner 3.5 Star

Emma’s mother dies, devastated she can’t bring herself to care for the horse they both loved. Each day the horse becomes more neglected and wild, one day Emma finds the courage to ride again.


Fox – Margaret Wild 4.5 Star

Dog has lost an eye, Magpie a wing, together as friends they are a team. Fox enters full of rage and envy. A drama ensues in which friendship and loyalty are tested, one part is quite confronting but then the resolution displays bravery and loyalty. Powerful illustrations, admittedly I didn’t like the print and nearly didn’t read Fox as a result, glad I did.


leap lit wk 3 2015 6


A River – Marc Martin 4 Star

An imaginary journey along the river from the city to the sea, passing factories and farmlands, freeways and forests.

A Forest – Marc Martin 3 Star

There was a forest grew, was decimated, eventually it was renewed.


My Mom is a Foreigner, But Not to Me – Julianne Moore 5 Star

A foreign mom may speak, eat and dress differently and yet…she speaks the language of all moms, love… Each illustration highlights mothers of different nationalities, their cultures, their differences. The expressions of love of the various mothers pays homage to all foreign mums. Highly recommended.



Pinduli – Janell Cannon 5 Star

A young hyena is teased about her looks by the other animals. She is then mistaken for a ghost and grants the scared animals ‘words of wisdom’ about one’s actions and also convinces the animals to leave food offerings. Extra information about hyenas at the back of the book.



Cinco de Mouse O! – Judy Cox 3.5 Star

Mouse visits a Cinco de Mayo festival, he is determined to get a piece of candy from a pinata high in the trees. Cat is determined to get Mouse.

Chavala and the Magic Bubble – Monica Brown 4 Star

Chavala loves chewing gum, one day she chews magic gum and blows a giant bubble that takes her into the air, and to Mexico where she meets the chicleros collecting chicle(gum).



A Mother’s Journey – Sandra Markle 5 Star

Living picture book of a female Emperor Penguin’s heating habits, the dangers she faces and how the male penguin nurtures the egg until the chick is born. Highly recommended.



Max’s Magic Seeds – Geraldine Elschner 5 Star

Max’s botanist Uncle gives him a bag of seeds for his birthday, encouraging him to drop seeds along the way to school each morning. Before long the city is transformed with flowers blooming wherever there is soil.



Anna’s Prince – Krista Ruepp 4 Star

Finally after 4 years Anna’s horse is ready to learn to carry her.


Ali, Child of the Desert – Jonathon London 5 Star

Ali is ‘now ready to be a man’ and he travels with his father to the market three day’s camel ride away. A sand storm howls and Ali and his father are separated. Stranded in the Sahara Desert Ali must find shelter, food, courage and then his father. A tale of adventure, friendship and courage. Highly recommend!



Dust – Colin Thompson 2.5 Star

This book was inspired by Niger 2005, when thousands were dying of starvation. The author collaborated with 14 different illustrators and it ‘packs a punch’. It brings a powerful awareness on behalf of the poorest nation in the world about their destitution. However as a book for children it was quite confrontational, the book opens with the words, “I died last night” and some of the pictures very graphic for children.  It certainly is important for our children to be aware of the wider world and of those in need, but I’m not sure this was the best way, my children rated this book lower than I did as it “was too sad.”


Southern Africa

Meerkat Mail – Emily Gravett 4.5 Star

Sunny Meerkat leaves the Kalahari Desert and sets off to visit his various relatives. Each day his sends home postcards to his family, in the end he decided home is best.


leap lit wk 3 2015 7


The Matchbox Diary – Paul Fleischman 5 Star

An old man explains to his his great-granddaughter the stories behind his ‘matchbox diary’. In each box is a memory, a photography, a seed, a ticket. He shares his immigration from Italy to America as a young boy. The hardships they left behind and the hardships his family encounters in America and yet he overcomes this with the gift of literacy.  Delightful illustrations, fantastic storyline, history taught effortlessly, absolutely recommend!


A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope – Michael Foreman 5 Star

A small boy’s village is ruined, torn apart by war, a barbed wire fence and soldiers separate him from the hills he loves. When he sees a tiny green shoot he nurtures the plant with water and care. A book about hope

[su_divider top=”no” style=”double”]


Yet More – 5 Star 

The Birthday Tree – Paul Fleischman 5 Star

When baby Jack is born his parents plant an apple tree to honour his birth. Jack leaves home and his parents learn of his happiness and sufferings by observing the tree. The tree thrives when Jack is happy and withers when he is suffering.

The Princess Who Had No Kingdom – Ursula Jones 5 Star

A Princess without a Kingdom though she was kind, clever and beautiful. Does she find her Kingdom, does she find her Prince. We were mesmerised by this book, traditional, gorgeous illustrations with traditional language and then, the language and plot became a little quirky. Loved it.

My Little Grandmother Often Forgets – Reeve Lindberge 5 Star

Tom’s grandmother is very forgetful, she even forgets important matters such as how to get home from the shops or to turn off the stove. Tom is gentle and patient with his grandmother and they both enjoy each other’s company. A fantastic book about dementia, although I admit I understood it on a level the children who have not had this experience didn’t. Highly recommend.

The Rainbabies – Laura Krauss Melmed 5 Star

In the magic of a moonshower a childless couple find 12 babies in the meadow. The couple shower them with love and in the end they are rewarded with their heart’s desire.

Run, Hare, Run! The Story of a Drawing – John Winch 5 Star

Inspired by the reproduction of the painting, he Hare by Albrecht Durer. Excellent, highly recommended.


leap lit wk 3 2015 3

4.5 Star

Henny Penny – Vivian French 4.5 Star

A retelling of the classic story, only this time Henny Penny ‘saves the day’.

[su_divider top=”no” style=”double”]

4 Star

Summerhouse – Laurence Anholt 4 Star

Ella’s Grandma and Grampa come from an island home, Ella’s Grandma has an infectious belly laugh. Ella doesn’t laugh as she is serious, she has to find “sunshine within herself” says Grandma.

Catching the Moon – Myla Goldberg 4 Star

Every night an old woman fishes with a mouse for bait, she is fishing for…the moon. Strange tale though the children loved it and our rating is a big compromise between our different reactions to the book.

Kaito’s Cloth – Glenda Millard 4 Star

Kaito’s butterflies have died, she finds a way to honour the beauty of her butterflies. Lovely story though a little odd.

Farmer John’s Tractor – Sally Sutton 4 Star

The rain comes, the river rises, a family needs rescuing. Various machines attempt to save the family, Farmer John’s tractor locked in the shed, Rusty yet trusty and orangey-red saves the day. For the very young.

Ruby – Colin Thompson 4 Star

A family of ‘small people’ who live in the roots of a tree, son accidentally becomes trapped in a vintage car.  In pursuit of their son they set off on an adventure as the car returns to the city. Intricate illustrations.

God’s Dream – Archbishop Desomond Tutu 4 Star

A message of unity, love and forgiveness, written for the very young child.


leap lit wk 3 2015 9


3.5 Star

Pass it Polly – Sarah Garland 3.5 Star

Girl power at play here. Two girls join the school soccer team, they don’t know how to play and the boys won’t teach them. One of the girl’s grandfather teaches them, they become the stars of the soccer team, winning the match and grandfather is asked to coach the team.

Cottonwool Colin – Jeanne Willis 3.5 Star

Colin’s mother kept him inside, the world was too dangerous for him. One day she allowed him outside wrapped in cotton wool. Colin faced challenges, the wool fell off but he survived.

[su_divider top=”no” style=”double”]

3 Star

Mr Grumpy’s Motor Car – John Burningham 3 Star

Mr Gumpy goes for a drive in his car with children and a car full of animals. For the very young.

Interrupting Chicken – David Ezra Stein 3 Star

Papa reads little chicken a bedtime story but little chicken keeps interrupting to save the storybook characters.

[su_divider top=”no” style=”double”]

2.5 Star

Eliza and the Moonchild – Emma Chichester Clark 2.5 Star

A wild moonchild is tired of his white surroundings and zooms to earth in search of colour.


leap lit wk 3 2015 8


1 Star

Feel the Summer – Sarah L Thomson 1 Star

Lyrical text about the joys of Summer.

Beach Bag Boogie – Lindsay Wood 1 Star

Jaspar goes camping at the beach with his family.  Catchy, repetitive rhyme captures his summer holiday experiences.

[su_divider top=”no” style=”double”]

0.5 Star

The Rain Train – Elena De Roo 0.5 Star

A train ride through the night. Rhythmic, for the very young child. Bit boring actually.

Buckamoo Girls – Ellen A Kelley  0.5 Star

If two cows could be cowgirls, what they’d do. Frankly… lame.

The Box – Martha Lightfoot 0.5 Star

A box arrives and two sisters imagine what is inside. Precisely what is inside is never revealed. Written for the very young.

[su_divider top=”no” style=”double”]

0 Star

Day in the Wind – Ted Kooser 0 Star

‘A day in the life of a plastic bag’ as it drifts about town and into people’s lives.  I’m all for recycling but this story didn’t feel subtle, I felt strongly ‘manipulated’. Very long.

Friday My Radio Flyer Flew – Zachary Pullen 0 Star

The illustrations looked promising but the storyline was..lame

Cowboy Octopus – Jon Scieszka 0 Star

Two unlikely characters become friends, lame, totally lame

Green – Laura Vaccaro Seeger 0 Star

How many different kinds of green are there? I’m afraid…boring

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  • Angela

    I am always amazed at the number of books you get through. Would love to hear more about how you choose your books… Do you have topics in mind or just broad categories (like history, geography, etc.)? Do you use book lists or just browse?

    • Erin

      The reason we can get through so many picture books in Term 4 is because we read only minimal of our other chapter books, we free up time.
      Great question – In regards to all these picture books, I chose ‘books by their cover’. I worked my way through all 5000 of our libraries picture books, checking out possibilities by their cover. So this time I didn’t have topics or categories, I was more searching for high quality books.
      Other times I do use lists. The problem is many lists are American and our library has far more Australian books than American. When I read book lists I’m lucky if our library has 5% of the books on the list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *