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Oliver, A Story about Adoption
Story by Lois June Wickstrom
Illustrations by Priscilla Marden
Published by Our Child Press, Wayne, PA
ISBN: 0961172-5-5

Reviewed by Mary Hake

Oliver, a young lizard-like animal who had been adopted, enjoys playing pirate up in the maple tree. After he falls and his father sends him to his room, Oliver wonders what life would be like with his birth parents. His great imagination pictures various scenes, such as on a fire truck or in a science laboratory. The text for these daydreams is in rhyme, some of which is rather strained, while the rest of the story is prose. It's fun to picture possible scenarios with Oliver.

After Oliver recalls his "real" parents weren't ready to be parents when he was born, he concludes that's why he couldn't be with them now. He decides to go mend the pillowcase he tore while angry went his dad sent him to his room. As he sneaks downstairs, his mother calls him to join them in the kitchen where they've been baking cookies. As the family sits around the table, they discuss being adopted and thinking about what life would be like with a different family. Oliver realizes his feelings are normal and tells his parents he will stay with them. Then he sews up his pillowcase.

I think the conclusion would have been satisfying and kept the focus on the theme if the story ended when Oliver says, "Then I guess I'll stay with you two." Although anger is a normal reaction, being destructive is not a good example for children in how to handle it; however, he did repair the damage he caused. Sneaking behind his parents' back also sets a poor example. These actions could have been omitted without detracting from the story. Sadly, his father did not seem to be very compassionate when Oliver fell from the tree. Children can identify with Oliver's feelings and reaction.

The concepts and vocabulary make this picture book more appropriate for older children, probably ages 6 and up. The story could be better developed and more true-to-life for young children. For example, would a little boy really sew something by himself?

The artwork is well done. The cover features a color picture of Oliver, the pirate, in a tree. The body of the book contains detailed black-and-white drawings, portraying "human" facial expressions on the characters.

I would recommend reading this book with a child and discussing the situations, especially if the child is adopted. This should help adopted children be able to deal with their circumstances and emotions.

Mary Hake is a freelance writer and editor from Oregon. She has had work (for both children and adults) published in various periodicals and included in two books. She enjoys reading and writing children's stories. She has also taught creative writing to children and at writers' conferences.


"The Mystery of the Missing Meteor Field Carrots"
By Lois June Wickstrom and Lucrecia Darling.

Review by Leesa Clark

The book is about a rabbit that has to solve a mystery that takes place in a carrot field that belongs to him. The orange forest rabbit has to figure out who is stealing his carrots. Strange things begin to happen after a "blue fireball" explodes over the orange forest rabbit's carrot field.

The orange forest rabbit's name is Gregory, but the story only uses his name once. When the authors refer to the main character he is always referred to as the orange forest rabbit. They should have used his name more since orange forest rabbit is a mouth full. Mr. Rabbit has a pet pit bull puppy named Robes Pierre and a wife named Jennifer. They tell the reader that Robes Pierre is a puppy, but you get the impression that he is a much older dog when reading the story.

Mr. Rabbit has a company that sells carrots and carrot cakes, and the name of the company is OFR, which are the initials of the Orange Forest Rabbit, but the authors never let the kids know what the initials stand for. The blue stones from the "Blue fireball" fall onto Mr. Rabbit's carrot fields. The authors never tell the kids that the blue fireball was a meteor. The stones affect the carrots in the field and cause everyone who eats them to become invisible, and dishonest. You never find out who became invisible or what they did that was dishonest.

Mr. Rabbit has to get back the carrots that are at his booth at the fair once he figures out the secret is in the carrots. We see two people offering Mr. Rabbit a lot of money for the carrots a Mrs. Covert and a government man. The authors should have developed Mrs. Covert's character a little more so the reader would understand why she was so interested in buying the carrots and how she could afford to offer Mr. Rabbit so much money for the secret.

The story was good, but it should have given the reader more detail into the characters and showed how honest people began doing dishonest things once they figured out they were invisible.

Leesa lives in New Jersey with her husband and seven children. She works full time and writes in her spare time. She is working on a series of children's books.


The Ultimate Homeschool Planner
Created by Learning Launchers
Publisher-Champion Press LTD.
ISBN 1-891400-01-0

Review by Hilary Evans

Homeschoolers are diverse creatures. Some buy packaged curriculum and sit down to work every day. Others learn while they live, avoiding schedules as a rule. Most of us fall in-between. The Ultimate Homeschool Planner by Champion Press is an excellent guide for that first kind of family. While adaptable, the lack of information on other methods of learning is disappointing in an "ultimate" guide. Other biases apply. I feel The Ultimate Homeschool Planner would best be suited to Christian curriculum educators with higher budgets.

To its credit, the planner comes in a three-ring binder, making the worksheets and learning logs easy to reproduce. This could be used from first grade to graduation. It includes many sheets that would benefit families of any learning style.

I especially liked the plan's initial "knowledge inventory" where both student and parent are evaluated. I learned several things during the process. It did point out to me areas in which our son really excels and areas he doesn't do well in, but there are no recommendations here. The parent survey merely asks if you feel your son or daughter requires more work in an area, and why.

The later assessment sheets seem redundant, as do the many versions of tracking your progress. First you have daily, weekly and monthly calendars, broken down further by year into quarters, semesters or seasons. Embarrassingly enough, one of the articles maintained that the seasons are Christmas, Easter and summer. In various points throughout the text it is obvious the authors did not consider their non-Christian readers.

Of course, this is not an all-or-nothing plan. It is encouraged you take what works and leave the rest, although the guide contradicts that by offering strict guidelines for parents. "Clear your calendar completely if you intend to succeed at home education," reads one article.

In the same vein, the authors push away families struggling to make ends meet. Any thrifty homeschooling mom knows who her friends are - namely the library and consignment shops. "When we don't plan, we may forget to get the book in time; or if we use a library we find it is already checked out." IF?! The family finances section was a major disappointment. In fact, the guide lacks a lot of essential information.

In one chapter it mentions that "many homeschool expenses are tax deductible". This is something I hadn't heard before, but instead of offering us details the guide encourages families to seek out a tax consultant. It fails to list curriculum companies or book suppliers, aside from the parent resource books available through Champion Press. (My guess is curriculum printing is not far behind for the company.)

Although, I have to admit, certain sections made me want to buy more Champion Press books. The bit on creating support groups was some of the best advice I've seen on the subject, and that was from Christian Unschool by Teri Brown and Elissa Wahl. A wonderful article on organization came from Debbie Williams', Home Management 101: a guide for busy parents.

However, in the same section was an odd and ill-fitting worksheet, the food log, where parents are encouraged to "track exercise, food consumption, water intake and sedentary activity" of their children. Unless your child has a disease that requires keeping track of every drop, crunch and crumb, following that advice would line the road to food obsession.

All in all, I thought the beginning of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner was great. Even though it centered solely on one kind of homeschooling, it was adaptable. Later I felt Champion Press was searching with ways to fill the book with content, regardless of the quality. For families who can easily adapt materials to their form of study, this is a good book. It gives you helpful supplies, but perhaps not the advice that is needed.

The Curriculum Yellow Pages 501 Web Sites Featuring Free Worksheets, Unit Studies, Lesson Plans, Tools and Resources for Grades K-12
by: Deborah Taylor-Hough, Leanne Ely, Brook Noel and Penny E. Stone
ISBN: 1-891400-04-5
Champion Press, Ltd.

Review written by Hilary Evans

The Curriculum Yellow Pages is a fast reference guide to educational sites, broken up by subject. A handy contents page at the beginning of the book helps you find each section quickly. In addition, each selection is labeled by grade level. The authors did a good job of finding quirky, helpful sites in 26 different areas of study. Most of the sites are online lessons which take "curriculum" to heart.

Generally speaking, this book is a collection of annotated links. About 20% in the first chapter are obsolete, and for $19.98 one would expect some sort of update run by Champion Press. You won't find that, or much of what you have been promised. At the beginning of the book you are given a URL and e-mail address. You are instructed to mail Champion Press for a username and password you then enter on the above-mentioned web page.

After several weeks, I still have not heard from Champion Press. First, the
address in the book was invalid. I tracked down the homepage and re-mailed. The letter wasn't returned this time, but I have never received a response. The URL too, is invalid, so given the username and password I would have nothing to do with it. Regretfully, I am unable to comment on the online portion of the book.

That said, these writers did a heck of a job finding a variety of sites.
Instead of throwing generic hub names at you, they detail specific stellar
pages at the sites. It's unfortunate that so many are out of commission, but
that is the nature of the Internet. The authors add helpful tips on finding
"lost" pages. It's too bad they didn't have similar information on how to get responses out of the customer service department.

A Literary Education, by Catherine Levison
Publisher: Champion Pr Ltd; (June 20, 2001)
ISBN: 1891400231

Reviewed by Julia Temlyn

As someone who experienced both public school education and home education, I found this book to be extremely helpful. It’s a less than 100 pages, but holds a veritable assortment of the best picks to stock up on for educating your child, young or adolescent, at home.

A Literary Education, by Catherine Levison, is a wonderful tool for homeschoolers and non-home educators alike. Author of two home-schooling how-to manuals, she takes it one step further with her recommendations of books to be used for particular subjects, ranging from literature to science to biographies. She devotes the two largest chapters to literature and history, covering period classics as well as historically accurate books that will make your children long to learn more about world history. Many of the literature and history books will compliment one another, as children read about characters growing up in ancient to modern eras.

It is often difficult to find science books geared toward all ages, and Levison has found a good assortment. In this chapter one can find elementary level, as well as higher grade levels. She also devotes several pages to poetry, mentioning various poets for different age groups. Several books are mentioned concerning art and music, how they grew through the ages, as well as the lives of composers and artists. I wish the biographies section had been longer – though I believe that many of the books mentioned in the history chapter were also biographies, so all in all the subjects are well rounded. There are several that fall into a miscellaneous category, including a personal favorite: What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, by Daniel Pool. This is a wonderful companion to all of the above subjects, as it teaches young people a bit of literature, history, science, art, and music, about the nineteenth century. Also included in her reviews is a helpful book about teaching your youngsters good etiquette.

I was very impressed by the scope and sequence appendix at the end of this book, which features a helpful “chart” of what kids should have knowledge of at different grade levels. This is helpful for parents without a teaching background, to know what each grade level should hold in store, and what their expectations should be.

Catherine Levison has compiled a wonderful selection of books useful for home-educating children of all grade levels. This book is a must-have for your shelf! is inviting you to share your REAL INSIGHT THROUGH RAW OPINION! Submit Poetry, Articles, Thoughts and Short Fiction. Please read our Submission Guidelines before submitting.


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