19 April, 2011

A Living Bookshelf

A living book is a book that opens your mind, inspires you to read more, or to learn more about a person, event, or time in history. A living book will ask to be read again, or quoted from as you read through it. A living book will be re-enacted by your children in the backyard or the living room theatre. A living book will sprout ideas for a new project or writing lesson.

Many of you are aware of the great booklists - especially Ambleside Online's booklists. These lists have been the backbone of our read-aloud books over the years.

But we have also come across many books that are not on those lists. I would like to share a little bit about some of the books sitting on my bookshelf in the picture.

Nestled between the big Matthew Henry commentary on the book of Matthew, and one of the girls' Bibles, is a red & black book called "People in History" written by R.J. Unstead. This is what he writes in his introduction:

Every age has its heroes who stir the imagination and shape the lives of ordinary people. For a child in particular, tales of heroism and adventure, of high courage and achievement, are an important and essential part of his development, as well as his first introduction to history.

Unstead then goes on to "tell the stories" of many historical characters, from Boadicea, to William the Conqueror, to Florence Nightingale. The stories are accompanied by black and white, and some colour illustrations. Unstead has written many other books on different time periods, and they are always a delight to read.

Another book on the shelf - infact a set of books, are those by Arthur Mee. They are the red and green books, three of which are without dustjackets, toward the right hand end of the bottom shelf. One of them is called "The Wonderful Journey". This is Arthur Mee's introduction:

Here we will let imagination do its work; we will roam among the great sights of the world. This is no guide-book. It is a picture of things that a busy man has seen when he has found the courage and the time to say Good-bye to Little Treasure island, and to run over the hills and far away. It is a look-back to happy days and far-off things...

...from this hilltop [in Kent] with all its thrilling wonder, we may pass in not many hours to stand among the ruins of Time and her ancient empires. We can be in Egypt or in Rome. We can walk among the ruins of Pompeii, and look upon the monuments the Romans left behind. Within a week we can stand in the heart of a mountain and gaze on the face of Pharoah lying where his people left him long ago. We can see the shadows of their mighty walls creep across the sands of Egypt. Let us imagine we are there again. Let us go together on this journey through Time and some of her wonders.

"A Wonderful Journey" is another book that tells the stories of historical characters, but also makes you feel as though you have been to all the places and seen the characters!
Arthur Mee also wrote a children's newspaper, about all manner of different subjects. They were eventually published as "The Children's Encyclopaedia", which we have a copy of. The girls spend hours pouring over these books!

I always look out for these two authors, because I know they will not disappoint!


Nancy said...

Love the book recommendations. You think like the PNEU - have you seen that they recommended People In History, also? It's from 1964, but still!

"The new book recommended is People in History, by R. J. Unstead. History is taught through the lives and actions of individuals, but this book lacks the chronological continuity given in Our Island Story. With the six-year-olds the work is planned to cover the stories associated with great men from the Roman Landing in England to the Norman Conquest, a cycle of four terms' work."


Isn't that fascinating???

Nice work,


rachaelnz said...

Thanks for that Nancy - that is interesting! I googled Ambleside for Unstead, but it came up with nothing, then when I went to your link, I saw that his name was mis-spelt as R.Junstead! We do enjoy chronological history too - we used Story of the World, but it is nice to have other story books to supplement it.
I wonder what the "repellent biases" in Our Island Story were?
I still have so much to learn about CM. I am attempting to read through her original writings, and hopefully will be able to apply more of her philosophies with my younger children.

Mrs B said...

One of the things I love most about home education is a much better opportunity to grow wonderful bookshelves of books.

I recently scored the Aurthur Mee encyclopedias ... a friend said she was getting rid of some encyclopedias and would I be interested... I said no, I'm only interested in the A.Mee ones..."That's them!" she says... am very happy as we had a set when I was a child but my brother scored them when they were being decluttered.

Mrs B said...

ooh - could you recommend a great book or two from NZ please?
I have a friend who is from NZ and came to Aus. 2 years ago.... she recently asked a NZ friend to choose and send some NZ books and DORA!!! was sent LOL
She has 7 & 9yo dds and a 7mo boy... if you can think of a NZ book or two that would be ideal for the older two, that would be WONDERFUL!

rachaelnz said...

What sort of books is your friend wanting? History, literature, nature? There are some on my blog under the "New Zealand" tab, you also might find some more at my old blog, just click on the sunflower at the top right.
I plan to do some more reviews of NZ books on my blog as I get to them!

Penney Douglas said...

I like your definition of a living book, especially the part about opening your mind and inspiring you to read more and learn more.
I have found this to be true for myself and for my children.

I haven't heard of these books. I'll be looking for them, though.

Very good post!


Mel said...

Oh, love a good post about books! Especially loved your description of a living book. I will keep an eye out for books by these authors now. We own and love Our Island Story, although I do think she may be a little biased at times, for instance she gave William the Conqueror rather a rough go, whereas I've read kinder reports of him in other books. Still love her narrative though!

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