Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Castles, castles and those who inhabited them

We've started a history unit -- at Lego Maniac's request -- to learn everything we possibly can about castles, the Middle Ages, Crusades, knights, princesses (that's a suggestion from String Bean) fairy tales, and all else Medieval.

We're having so MUCH FUN with this one.

We've been doing three different chapter read-alouds simultaneously:
  • Grimm's Fairy Tales (translated by Mrs. EVLucas, Lucy Crane and Marian Edwardes). This is the version I had when I was little. I just love the pictures by Fritz Kredel and the collection has many you usually don't see. Here's a link to the one published in 1975, Grimm's Fairy Tales, (but mine is from 1965, I'm pretty sure they're the same).
  • El Cid by Geraldine McCaughrean and illustrated by Victor G. Ambrus. This has been much better than we expected. I didn't know anything about El Cid, whose real name was Don Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, before reading this book to the kiddos. What a beautiful story of honor and swashbuckling good fun. McCaughrean used a poem written 40 years after El Cid's death; a poem written by an unknown Spaniard who made an epic tale out of El Cid's exploits; a poem written in 1140 that can hold the attention of ALL 5 of my very 21st century kids. The funny thing is I also have a book on our shelves called, Warriors of Christendom, which devotes a quarter of the book to El Cid and his banishing the Moors from Spain.
  • A combined volume by JRR Tolkein -- Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham. The first is a long fantasy about a man who is enchanted and goes and comes from Faery Land. It was a bit dry for the kids, but I enjoyed it -- it's more almost a sholarly analysis than a story. Now, the second half -- Farmer Giles of Ham, is definitely a classic for family read-alouds. It has all you could want: giants, dragons, pompous characters, silly humor, mistaken identities, exaggerated tales and just plain fun!

These are just the read-alouds. Wait till tomorrow when I tell you about the Castle books we're using!

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