Thursday, March 15, 2012

Nocturnal Project - Living Books Part 3

You know that sense of mourning you felt when folding up your infant's 0-3 month clothes for the last time? It kinda felt like that today when I brought back just about the last of our library books about night-time things. At this point it's feeling like we've reached saturation and our nocturnal project has ignited an interest in wildlife and "saving the animals," so we're going to shift gears a bit.

In all, Bean read over 70 books about nocturnal animals, astronomy, and great thinkers like Galileo. During the past 2 months, several books clearly emerged as his favorites. He would read them over and over again daily or several times a week during "free choice reading" and he'd want to read them to others too. These are literary treasures and I am so grateful for our libraries giving us access to them for free.

It surprised me how much he took to reference-type books such as the following two:
Night Sky AtlasNight Sky Atlas by Robin Scagell
We borrowed this book from the library for the past 2 months. The best part are the actual pictures constellations with the previous pagse being translucent and can be laid over. The translucent page has both the connect-the-dots image of the constellation as well as an outline of a more realistic picture to better imagine what the constellation is. I was never able to figure those out before this book. It's was Bean's idea to trace each one of the constellations into a "report," even ones only visible in the southern hemisphere. This books also introduced Greek letters as alpha refers to the brightest star in a constellation, beta the second brightest, etc. Bean finds "alphas" everywhere now, such as in droplets of water on the shower walls.

The Book of North American OwlsThe Book of North American Owls by Helen Roney Sattler
We actually borrowed 2 copies of this book from the library by accident, but then it turned out to be useful to have one copy in Bean's room and one downstairs. The page depicting all owls organized by size first grabbed his attention. Then he enjoyed reading up on the owls towards the end of the book where each species has its own page. From this, he has learned to distinguish about 9 different owls. In fact when we went on an owl prowl the other night, he could identify a hawk owl when our tour guide from the forest preserve did not know what it was.

Because the great-horned owl is the largest owl found in Illinois, Bean was particularly fond of it. We highly recommend:

Tiger With WingsTiger With Wings by Barbara Esbensen
This is a picture book but does not read like a story, but more like an encyclopedia entry. It is extremely informative, providing every detail about great-horned owls that a kid would want to know. Some of Bean's favorite facts from it are that ear tuffs are not ears at all but movable feathers to show anger, these owls are the only birds to have upper eye-lids, they commonly eat skunks as they can barely detect the smell, and female great-horned owls are larger than males. These facts come in handy when pretending to be great-horned owls, using mommy and daddy's bed as a nest.

An Owl In The House:  A Naturalist's DiaryAn Owl In The House: A Naturalist's Diary by Alice Calaprice
This is the book that made Bean really fall in love with great-horned owls. A scientist journals about his discovery of an owlet and how he nurses it back to health. This book has Charlotte Mason written all over it. It really brings the topic to life through the author's drawing of Bubo and documentation of what he does over 3 years (and his increasing love for him during that time). This is by far the most advanced book I've ever seen Bean read. Amazon lists it for grades 4 to 6 and ages 9 and up. He actually hasn't finished it yet with about 10 pages left. I think he's is stalling because he does't want it to end!

Bean told me that he likes books that follow the life cylce of animals, perhaps from reading about Bubo. The following two books are beautiful picture books that do just that.

Ookpik: The Travels of a Snowy OwlOokpik: The Travels of a Snowy Owl by Bruce Hiscock
This year was an eruption year for snowy owls with lots of media coverage so we read some newspaper clippings about it (though they are not nocturnal and didn't quite fit the theme of our studies). It was this book, full of water-color paintings, that gave us lots of factual information. It traces the first year of life of a typical snowy owl, Ookpik ("snowy owl" in Inuit) and reads somewhat like a nature journal/adventure story/poetic encyclopedia entry.

Can you tell Bean developed a slight obsession with owls? We also read about racoons, skunks, foxes, bats, and snakes, but the only other nocturnal animal that he really liked almost as much as owls were wolves.

Look to the North: A Wolf Pup DiaryLook to the North: A Wolf Pup Diary by Jean Craighead George
This author is brilliant and we have since read more of her works, but this book started it all. The illustrations are majestic and extremely detailed. This story book follows 3 pups for almost their first year of life. I particularly appreciated how the development of wolf pups was related other noticeable events, for example, "When the crickets are chirping, look to the north. Wolf pups are learning adult wolf talk. Learning wolf talk was perhaps Bean's favorite and  very useful for make-believe. He also pretended to raise wolf pups and tallied the passing of nine real days on a piece of paper so he would know when they would open their eyes. From this book, he also drew the connection of Greek letters to dominance in wolves and other pack animals as one of the wolf pups rises from the bottom to become the beta.

For this project, Bo took the lead on finding resources for the related topics of mythology, poetry, physical sciences, hands-on experiments, and biographies of relevant people in history. If you want his recommendation on books, you'll probably have to ask him personally or beg him to blog. He found the following 2 books that Bean really liked about Galileo.

Galileo's Leaning Tower Experiment: A Science AdventureGalileo's Leaning Tower Experiment: A Science Adventure by Wendy Macdonald
This is a fun story about discovery through asking questions, experimentation an observation. It teaches a great lesson too about not just believing what others say, but finding out for yourself, and also believing in yourself when others will challenge you. Bean: "This book was about dropping things. They dropped bread, cheese, hammers, buckles, chicken feathers, paper, and rocks to see how fast things fall. They learned that some things fall the same speed. Aristotle said that things fall at different speeds."

Galileo's Journal, 1609-1610Galileo's Journal, 1609-1610 by Jeanne Pettenati
This book is formatted like a journal (which Bean really seems to enjoying these days), but is a fictional picture book. It makes the material very approachable for the youngest of readers, telling the story of Galileo's spyglass and his discoveries. The excitement and curiosity in the journal entries are catching! Bean: "It was funny that Galileo thought that three stars were circling around Jupiter, but there were 4 moons instead of three. The spy glass would let him see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn."

That loss I feel is temporary as I know we can always borrow these books again. We are certainly not finished learning about all thing pertaining to the night. We will continue to investigate it more as we explore other things and draw the related connections. Unlike baby clothes, we will never grow too big for nocturnal studies.

See here for Part 1
See here for Part 2


  1. I came upon your blog through chambanamoms. I really like your ideas for Nocturnal project! My boys would absolutely love all of these. We do not homeschool (although I want to, DH not on board yet)but I have lots of plans in the works for outdoor/nature studies this spring and especially for the summer. I am not particularly organized or really even as patient as I would like to be so I really appreciate reading your thoughts and ideas on your blog! Lord bless!

  2. Diana,

    Let me know if you have specific questions or want to meet up to chat. I'm at If you are into nature studies and learning from real books, you might enjoy learning more about the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling (or even afterschooling) if you want to do that a bit. I'd recommend the book: I believe our local libray has it.