Picture Books about the Middle Ages: Monks and Monasteries

In the last 15 years or so, there’s been a change in the world of picture books. The picture books that explore history and the lives of famous people have gotten so much better. You can see it in the Caldecott lists, with titles starting to appear such as Henry’s Freedom BoxA River of WordsDave the PotterMe…JaneThe Noisy Paintbox, or Freedom in Congo Square — all books that tell compelling stories while at the same time exploring a particular historical person or event. As both a history buff and a lover of picture books, seeing more of this kind of picture books makes me very happy.

There’s something magical about exploring history through picture books.  Instead of a list of kings and battles and dates, you get a compelling narrative or personal story, complete with illustrations that give the kind of visual cues for the historical setting that are almost impossible to relate solely through words. A well done historical picture book engages the senses and gives a unique window into the time period.

So when I started looking over my 7-year-old son’s history curriculum for this year, I was disappointed with the lack of picture books. We homeschool and our curriculum (Sonlight) relies mainly on A Child’s History of the World and The Usborne Book of World History for its survey of world history. These are both good books, but I thought the experience would be enriched by adding in some well chosen historical picture books along the way.

In this first post, I will share the picture books we used to supplement our study of monks and monasteries during the Middle Ages. I’ll continue with an ongoing series of posts featuring the picture books that align with various periods of history as we study them. Our curriculum for this year covers the rather daunting period of the Middle Ages through World War II. With this large of a time span, it’s obviously going to be a high level survey, with just a few hand picked picture books to go along with each era.

So whether you’re a homeschooler, a teacher, a librarian, or just a parent or care-giver who wants to explore history with the kids, I hope you enjoy diving into this collection of picture books.

Picture Books About the Middle Ages:

Monks and Monasteries

The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane – by C.M. Millen

theophane

This tale follows a plucky young monk named Theophane as he works in the scriptorium of an Irish monastery, copying manuscripts and creating books. Told in lilting verse, and with beautiful stained-glass style illustrations, the story brings to life a number of aspects of bookmaking — making the ink, collecting herbs and berries for color, binding up donkey hair for brushes, etc. My favorite aspect of this particular book was the fact that it incorporated into the text translated quotations of actual poems written by Irish monks in the margins of their manuscripts.

Magic in the Margins – by W. Nikola-Lisa

margins

This story also focuses on a young boy working in the scriptorium of a monastery, but the focus is different than in The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane. Our main character, Simon, is just an apprentice in the scriptorium, and he longs to progress from simple sketches and exercises to being able to fully illuminate pages in the manuscripts. An unusual assignment from the abbot of the monastery leads Simon on a journey of discovery about meaning and imagination in art. This book goes into more depth about the artistic marginalia that monks included in the illuminated margins of their manuscripts than other books I’ve seen.

Saint Francis and the Wolf – by Jane Langton

francis

Set in 12th century Italy, this is the tale of a wolf who terrorizes the town of Gubbio until Saint Francis steps in and brokers peace between the wolf and the town. The charming illustrations are in the style of medieval illuminations and give a good sense for both the dress and the architecture of the time.

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{For fellow homeschoolers: this list of books aligns with Week 1 of Sonlight’s Core C}

 

 

Diverse Children’s Books Link-up: Favorite Diverse Author or Illustrator

Our theme for today’s Diverse Children’s Books linkup is Favorite Diverse Author or Illustrator. Who is your must-read author or must-see illustrator? (The theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

What Is #DiverseKidLit?


Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

DiverseKidLit
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DiverseKidLit
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We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, October 15th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Theme

Our theme for the current linkup is Favorite Diverse Author or Illustrator. Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes …

  • October 15th linkup: We will continue the Favorite Diverse Author or Illustrator theme.

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most-clicked post from the previous #diversekidlit linkup is KitaabWorld’s Bilingual Picks. This great round-up post includes bilingual favorites in a range of Asian languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, and Urdu. There are also links to more titles and more languages at the end of the article.

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

We’ve started a new group board on Pinterest to highlight all the amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children’s Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

To join in, click on the blue button below!

Diverse Children’s Books Link-up: Favorite International Book(s) for Children

Our theme for today’s Diverse Children’s Books linkup is Favorite International Book(s) for Children. Share your favorite book or books that take place in a different country than where you live! (The theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

What Is #DiverseKidLit?


Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

DiverseKidLit
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DiverseKidLit
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We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, September 3rd and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Themes

Our theme for the current linkup is Favorite International Book(s) for Children. Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes …

  • September 3rd linkup: Diverse Book(s) Featuring a Character with a Disability. (Need ideas? Check out past winners of the Schneider Family Book Awards.)
  • September 17th linkup: Favorite Bilingual Book(s). Think about your favorite book or books that are published in bilingual (or multiple language) editions.

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most clicked post from the previous #diversekidlit is Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set Outside of the United States (By Continent) from Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. They each share a favorite book from the five populated continents, excluding North America.

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

 

Beth @ Pages and Margins
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

Carolina @ La Clase de Sra. DuFault
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Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

Jane @ Rain City Librarian
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Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

Mia @ Pragmatic Mom
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram

Myra @ Gathering Books
Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Guest Host for August

Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries
Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

We’ve started a new group board on Pinterest to highlight all the amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children’s Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

Diverse Children’s Books Link-up: Back to School Edition

Our theme for today’s Diverse Children’s Books linkup is Diverse Books for Back to School. Please consider writing and sharing your favorite books either about school / back to school or that might make a great read aloud during those first few weeks of school. (The theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are still always welcome.)

What is #diversekidlit?


Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

DiverseKidLit
<br />
DiverseKidLit
<p>

We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, August 6th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Themes

Our theme for the current linkup (beginning Aug. 6th) is Diverse Books for Back to School. Themes are a suggestion only, all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes …

  • August 20th linkup: Favorite International Book(s) for Children. Share your favorite book or books that take place in a different country!
  • September 3rd linkup: Diverse Book(s) Featuring a Character with a Disability. (Need ideas? Check out past winners of the Schneider Family Book Awards.)

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most clicked post from the previous #DiverseKidLit linkup comes from author Gayle H. Swift: The Essential Life Lessons We Must Teach Children. Gayle shares her thoughts about some of the most important lessons we teach children, as well as a detailed review of two great books to use with kids. This is a useful resource for teachers and parents alike!

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Katie @ The Logonauts
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest 

Beth @ Pages and Margins
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

Carolina @ La Clase de Sra. DuFault
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

Jane @ Rain City Librarian
Blog / Twitter / Instagram

Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

Mia @ Pragmatic Mom
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram

Myra @ Gathering Books
Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Guest Host for August

Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries
Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

Get #diversekidlit Recommendations on Pinterest!

We’ve started a new group board on Pinterest to highlight all the amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children’s Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

 

Diverse Children’s Books Link-up {July 2-15}

Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

DiverseKidLit
<br />
DiverseKidLit
<p>

We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, July 16th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Svenja takes “most-clicked” honors again this time with her post on 30 Multicultural Books about Immigration in honor of June as Immigrant Heritage Month. The post is divided into books geared for preschoolers and elementary students, and the elementary recommendations are further subdivided by the continent of origin. You can find more great posts by revisiting the previous linkup here.

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

Picture Books about Fish

A Swim Through the Sea – by Kristin Joy Pratt

a swim through the sea.jpg

This lovely book takes an alphabetical approach to life in the sea. From Angelfish to Zebrafish, each page examines a new fish or marine animal, giving the reader a glimpse into the creature’s life and habits. Interesting and informative, this book provides a wonderful introduction to the diversity of life in our oceans.

About Fish: A Guide for Children – by Cathryn Sill

about fish (2).JPG

With delicate illustrations and clear, simple text, this book makes a great introduction to fish — both fresh-water and salt-water.

Life in a Coral Reef – by Wendy Pfeffer

life in a coral reef

With bold, vibrant illustrations (by the inimitable Steve Jenkins), this book examines the inhabitants of coral reefs. It explores the life cycle of the coral itself, as well as the fish, eels, crabs, sea cucumbers, etc. that make their homes in coral reefs. I found it particularly interesting that this book examined coral reefs both in the daytime and at night, showing the different creatures that come out at different times of day.

My Visit to the Aquarium – by Aliki

my visit

This story follows a young boy who visits an aquarium with his younger sister and older brother. The illustrations are detailed, and the various species of fish and marine animals are clearly marked within the illustrations as the boy wanders from exhibit to exhibit. There’s a lot of great information presented in a narrative form in this book, and it would be great coupled with your own visit to an aquarium!

Bubble Homes and Fish Farts – by Fiona Bayrock

bubble homes

This book isn’t solely focused on fish — it examines all kind of animals (mostly marine animals) that use bubbles in some way during their daily life. For instance, there’s a page devoted to the water spider, which uses bubbles to breathe in its underwater web. Another page highlights the way sea otters use bubbles under their fur to stay warm in icy water. My son and I both found this book to be fascinating, and it certainly expanding my knowledge about how animals use bubbles.

Sea Horse: the Shyest Fish in the Sea – by Chris Butterworth

sea horse.jpg

A beautifully illustrated introduction to sea horses — their life cycle and habits, their defensive mechanisms and reproduction. And lots of pictures of cute baby sea horses.

The Read-Aloud Transition: Kindergarten Read-Alouds

I was nervous about introducing chapter book read-alouds to my son. This was last summer — a year ago — and my son was four. We’d stuck with picture books up to that point, but I knew we’d be starting homeschool kindergarten in the fall, and I wanted to get into the habit of reading longer books together.

Why was I nervous? For one thing, I wasn’t sure if his attention span was long enough. I didn’t want to rush in too quickly and end up with him not being able to follow the story. Also, I knew we had something good going with our picture book reading, and I was nervous that he would consider reading aloud to be boring if we switched to reading chapter books too early.

Because of my concerns, I started out slow. We continued to read picture books as well, while I slowly introduced chapter books that had engaging stories, short chapters, and clear, straightforward sentences. And it worked! The transition went smoothly, and my son was able to follow the story lines even without the aid of illustrations. It warmed my heart to hear the story lines and characters from our read-alouds emerging in his imaginative play.

Here are some of the chapter books that we read over the last year. They are all very accessible to young listeners, with memorable stories and characters.

Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon – by Ruth Stiles Gannett

my father's dragon.jpg

A young boy rescues a dragon, by means of his own ingenuity and the contents of a well-stocked knapsack. The two proceed to have many adventures together.

Stuart Little – by E.B. White

stuart little

A young mouse (born to a human family) has adventures and survives the dangers of daily life that come when one is a mouse.

Charlotte’s Web – by E.B. White

Charlotte's Web.png

A charming tale of friendship about barnyard animals who band together to save the life of Wilbur the pig.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins – by Richard and Florence Atwater

mr. poppers penguins.jpg

A house-painter who has always longed to see the world (particularly the arctic and antarctic regions) finds himself in an interesting predicament when a penguin shows up on his doorstep.

Anna Hibiscus – by Atinuke

anna hibiscus.jpg

A young girl growing up in Africa (with her African father and Canadian mother) has many adventures with her fun-loving family. This is the first in a series of six books by Nigerian author Atinuke.

The Boxcar Children – by Gertrude Chandler Warner

the-boxcar-children.jpg

Four siblings make it on their own by living in an abandoned boxcar. A sweet story about ingenuity and caring for one another. This is the first in a very long series — the first 19 books were written by the original author.

The Dolphin Adventure – by Wayne Grover

dolphin adventure.jpg

The true story of a man who helps an injured dolphin when he’s diving off the coast of Florida. An engaging story, with two sequels available as well.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – by Roald Dahl

charlie and the chocolate

The fun and quirky story of a young boy who finds a golden ticket, allowing him to tour Willy Wonka’s extraordinary chocolate factory. The sequel is entitled Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

The Children of Noisy Village – by Astrid Lindgren

the children of noisy village.jpg

A charming story of a group of children growing up in Sweden in the 1960s. They experience the various traditional Swedish holidays and traditions, and have fun adventures along the way. This is the first book of the trilogy.

Pippi Longstocking – by Astrid Lindgren

pippi

A red-headed, mischievous girl with super-human strength, no parents, and a horse who lives on her front porch has a series of hilarious adventures. This is the first book of the trilogy.

Tumtum and Nutmeg – by Emily Bearn

tumtum and nutmeg

Two respectable British mice take it on themselves to help the children of the cottage where they live. This collection contains the first three books of the series, and books 4-6 can be found in The Rose Cottage Tales.

The Littles – by John Peterson

the littles

 A family of little people live in the walls of the Biggs’ home. But when the Biggs go on vacation, turmoil ensues. This is the first in a series of fifteen books.

Five True Dog Stories – by Margaret Davidson

dog sstories.jpg

Five stories about remarkable dogs — some have become famous (such as Balto), while others are unassuming pets who show courage, loyalty, and tenacity. The same author has books of stories on dolphins and horses (though those two come across as a bit more dated than then book of dog stories.)

The Mouse and the Motorcycle – by Beverly Cleary

mouse and the motorcycle

A young mouse living in the walls of a rural hotel becomes friends with a visiting boy who has a toy motorcycle. There are two sequels available about this remarkable mouse.

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children

treasury for children

A collection of heart-warming tales about Yorkshire vet James Herriot and the animals he cares for. Technically this is a collection of picture books (the illustrations are lovely), but the text is long enough (and complex enough) that it felt more like reading a chapter book.

Old Mother West Wind – by Thornton Burgess

old mother west wind.jpg

A collection of fun, old-fashioned stories about anthropomorphized forest and meadow animals. Despite the fact that the animals talk and wear clothes, a lot of the details about their lives and homes are true to life. Thornton Burgess has a number of other books and stories that feature the same characters.

Homer Price – by Robert McKloskey

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A collection of stories about a spunky, mechanical-minded boy growing up in the mid-west in the 1950s. The sequel is entitled Centerburg Tales.