Travel the World in Books Challenge: Algeria

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I’ve got another book to cross off my Travel the World in Books challenge. I knew I was being ambitious when I took on attempting to read one book from every country, but I have to say, I am learning so much, which I thoroughly enjoy. This time, I covered Algeria.

Algeria is a country in Northern Africa with a population of 40,263,711. Their government is currently a presidential republic, although, from 1830-1962, Algeria was a colony of France. The struggle for independence from France was the main subject of the book that I read. (Side note: I always knew that Great Britain was a major colonizer, see also: American Revolution, but until this year, with this book and also with the (this is my friend’s sister’s Usborne page, for the record) Lift-the-Flap Atlas we use as part of teaching Dominic geography, I realized for the first time that France was also a major colonizer.) The capital is Algiers.

Map of Algeria

Picture and facts from CIA World Factbook:

The book that I picked for Algeria is (disclaimer: affiliate link) Wolves in the City: The Death of French Algeria by Paul Henissart.

I don’t even know where to start with telling you about this book. It was long and it was dense, but not in a bad way. The author had excellent attention to detail in what was a very complicated situation, including personally doing a lot of interviews with people involved in the situation. What I do know about finishing this book, is that nobody handled the situation well. The French government didn’t handle it well, the FLN didn’t handle it well, the OAS didn’t handle it well – everybody made a giant mess of things and this resulted in a very bloody situation. A lot of people lost their lives.

Before this, I didn’t really know much about the history of colonialism in Africa. I knew it happened, but beyond that, I couldn’t tell you very much. And to be honest, since this book, I couldn’t tell you much about the history of it, except for what happened in Algeria. But I feel like even though I’ll never be an expert, any part I can learn is beneficial. There is always more to learn, but that shouldn’t stop us from learning what we can when we can, even though we’ll never learn it all.

This book was definitely eye opening, though hard to understand at times. Out of necessity, I googled a few things. There’s also a couple of instances of French where it’s not translated and I’m like “Okay, I have no idea what that means.” But overall, you can still get the general idea and themes of what is going on.

I’d recommend this book for anyone who is interested in history. It is definitely a time-consuming read, but it’s worth muscling through. Now, I’m on to a lighter and funnier book though. It’s all about balance.

Have you read any good books about Algeria? What do you know about Algeria? Have you ever been there? 

Photo Challenge #10: Childhood Memory

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So, the blog that had the photo challenge on it disappeared, but the picture is still on Pinterest, so I’m going to try to finish as much as I can as long as it stays up. Today is #10: childhood memory.

Can you tell what book this is from without scrolling below the picture to look?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire pages - a childhood memory

Give yourself a gold star if you guessed that it was Harry Potter. Books, and Harry Potter in particular, played a large part in my childhood. I can not tell you how many memories that I have that involve books or Harry Potter.

I used to get headaches when I was reading and that was how we figured out that I needed glasses. That was in the third grade and even today, I will still sometimes get headaches while reading if I need a change in my prescription. But I spent much of my childhood reading and discovering books. I biked up and down the street with a book balanced on my handlebars, determined to read even when I was forced to be outside.

And Harry Potter. Oh I can not even begin to count the childhood memories that I have regarding Harry Potter. I was hooked, I think, from the very first page. I went in – all in – and went to several midnight book releases and most of the movies at midnight. My dad and I went to the movies at midnight – it became our special thing. And in fact, we are going to a midnight (well, technically 11:40 pm) showing of the new Fantastic Beasts movie in a few weeks. I dressed up and I wrote fan fiction. I made so many of my friends that I still have today because of Harry Potter. Crazy, right? But wonderful.

I hope someday to introduce these books to my kids and I hope that they fall in love with the story as much as I did.

Do you have a childhood memory involving books or Harry Potter? 

P.S. Tomorrow is the start of November and for National Blog Posting Month, I am going to attempt to post every day in November. Let’s see if I can make it for the entire month. You’ll see a flurry of activity here starting tomorrow! It should be good fun.

Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert Story Exploration

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which will give me a small portion of your purchase if you purchase through them. Thanks for reading! I appreciate that you took the time to check out my post. 🙂 

I absolutely love Lois Ehlert books and the fact that she is an author from our state as well. I’ve already done one story exploration on her book Circus and today I’m adding another one, Waiting for Wings

Waiting for Wings Summary/Discussion

Waiting for Wings Book CoverWaiting for Wings is all about the life cycle of a butterfly. It includes beautiful illustrations of several different butterflies. You could ask your child several questions about the life cycle of the butterfly such as “How does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly?” and “What do caterpillars eat? Is it the same as what butterflies eat?”


Waiting for Wings is great for learning about butterflies on a basic level. You could examine butterflies or watch some videos about them. There are even kits you can get online where you can buy caterpillars and grow them into caterpillars. Dominic and I had the opportunity to do this – our caterpillars are growing now! We ordered our caterpillars from Insect Lore. The first picture is of our chrysalides and the second one is of after they hatched.

Caterpillar growth into butterflies

Waiting for Wings - Butterfly Release!

Here are some videos you could show your kids more about butterflies.


For this book, I chose to focus on the concept of symmetry. Most butterflies are symmetrical and so, I thought this was a good time to introduce this concept. Symmetry is where an object has two equal sides. To explore this concept, we first looked at the book to see examples of symmetry. Then we looked for examples of symmetry around our house – they’re everywhere if you’re looking. Third, we took some toys we had around the house and made some symmetrical patterns with them. I put a line of tape on the table to help us visualize the symmetry.

Symmetry practice


For art, we made tissue paper butterflies. I remember tissue paper art fondly from my childhood. This is how we made ours. You will need tissue paper, black construction paper, and contact paper.

Take a sheet of black paper and cut out two B’s of the same size. Putting the B’s back to back, make a butterfly shape. Cut out a square of contact paper large enough to fit this butterfly shape. Peel off backing and put the butterfly shape on the sticky side. Cut or tear tissue paper and put on top of the contact paper, inside the butterfly shape. Once filled up enough to your liking, cut another square of contact paper. Place contact paper on top of the butterfly, sealing the paper in between the two pieces of contact paper. Trim contact paper around the edges. Hang on window if desired. 🙂

Butterfly Art Collage

We also colored some butterfly and caterpillar coloring pages. These are from the coloring book, I Can Color Everything, which my sister got for Dominic’s birthday, but if you google butterfly coloring pages you’ll also find plenty.

Butterfly Coloring Pages from I Can Color Everything coloring book


For music, we sang “Five Little Butterflies” and pretended to fly away.

We also sang the kid’s praise song, “If I Were a Butterfly.” I included the video in case you weren’t familiar with it.

I also stumbled Waiting for Wings set to music and animated. That’s pretty cool eh? They took a few liberties with it, but otherwise, it’s pretty true to the text of the story.


I created this fun butterfly snack for the kids to eat. I took a piece of bread and cut it into a butterfly shape, then I spread both pieces with jam and arranged the jellybeans. Notice the symmetry – we talked about symmetry here too before we ate it.

Butterfly snack

We also drank from our cups with straws, mimicking the proboscis.

Drinking from a straw like a proboscis

Bible Illustration

The butterfly is a great example to use to kids to talk about life after death. Dominic and I were able to have a conversation – about how, when the butterfly is in the chrysalis, it looks dead, it’s not moving or anything like that, but one day the butterfly emerges. There is new life there. Just like us too, when we die, to the world, we will seem dead, but we are alive and we will be raised from the dead.

Field Trip

This would be a great time to visit a butterfly garden if you have one nearby. We are very fortunate to have a butterfly vivarium at our Milwaukee Public Museum and the four of us took a trip there to see the butterflies (and all the other cool things they offer). (Look closely and see if you can see butterfly on my head!)

Milwaukee Public Museum Butterflies

Gross Motor/Movement Fun 

Ever do butterfly stretches when you were a kid? Well, I thought that would be fun to do with the kids. So I taught them how to do butterfly stretches. We also flew around flapping our arms, pretending to be butterflies.

Butterfly stretching exercise


Movie/TV Options

  • “The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Stories” – Tells the familiar Eric Carle story – available on Netflix
  • In Sid the Science Kid the episode “Seed the Science Kid” they investigate butterfly eggs – this episode is not currently on Netflix
  • In Zoboomafoo the episode “Bzzz” they cover butterflies and other insects – this episode is not currently on Netflix
  • In Wild Kratts season 1 episode 9 is “Voyage of the Butterflier” but this does not match up with the season 1 episode 9 that is available on Netflix and I could not find it on Netflix
  • The Cat in the Hat Season 1 Episode 28 “Flutter by Butterfly” – available on Netflix
  • The Magic School Bus Season 2 Episode 3 “The Butterfly and the Bog Beast” – available on Netflix
  • Guess with Jess – Season 1 Episode 2 “What’s Happened to Chloe the Caterpillar?” – available on Netflix
  • Ella the Elephant – Season 1 Episode 2 – available of Netflix

Which one of these activities would your kids most enjoy? Have you ever read Waiting for Wings? 


The Science of Mom Book Review

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Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book for free! Regardless, I would only give you my 100 percent honest opinion. You all know that 😉 This page also may contain affiliate links, where I’ll receive a small portion of the price if you buy through my link. 

Name of book: The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First YearThe Science of Mom Book Cover

Author: Alice Callahan, PhD

Summary: There’s a lot of science out there about how to parent – and some of it is conflicting at times. In this book, Dr. Alice Callahan, PhD, wades through the science to help you understand it and figure out what the best choices for your family might be. It covers a wide range of topics including sleep, infant feeding and nutrition, and vaccines. 

Rating: 5 stars

Reason for rating: I have to say that I loved this book. It touches on such major topics as delayed cord clamping, the standard newborn procedures, breast milk or formula, sleep safety and sleep science, vaccines, and the introduction of solid foods. I consider myself to be a pretty well-researched parent – I’m always striving to learn more to try to make the best decisions for my kiddos – and I still learned tons from this book. Science is fascinating and I never knew that in high school, but I feel like I have learned that more and more since becoming an adult. Some of the stuff I learned in this book was huge (vaccines help reduce the SIDS risk) to just fascinating (In one study, babies were able to suck pacifiers faster in order to hear a recording of their mom reading Dr. Seuss). I loved that it takes a straight forward approach. I also love that she explained the science in a concise way that didn’t feel like she was dumbing it down. It was thrilling to learn so many new things and to learn more of the science behind choices that I had already made (like vaccines). I would recommend the book to anyone who is curious about how science and parenting interact and I would especially recommend it to people who have concerns about vaccines and to people who want to know more about introducing solid foods to their babies in terms of timing, what to introduce, and so on, as those are two sections that I think she covers especially well.  We do disagree on BLW a bit, but I still feel she makes some reasonable points about it – and this is an area where I feel there isn’t a ton of science yet, though she does do a good job covering the science that is out there. 

Find The Science of Mom on Amazon

Find The Science of Mom on Goodreads

Have you read The Science of Mom? What did you think of it? 

Be Nice to Spiders Story Exploration

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Be Nice to Spiders Story Exploration

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which will give me a small portion of proceeds. Today’s book is Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham. My son Dominic, age 3, and I did these activities.

Discussion Points/Theme

Be Nice to Spiders focuses on a spider named Helen. Left at a zoo when her owner moves, Helen makes the animals very happy by eating all the flies that are bothering them in their habitats. However, when the mayor schedules a visit, the zookeeper makes the maintenance workers clean up all the spider webs. The animals grow unhappy again as the flies return. Eventually the zookeeper realizes that the spiders were very useful, he allows them back in, and their zoo becomes an award-winning zoo. This would be a great book to discuss how everything/everyone is useful and has a purpose, even if you think they are a nuisance/ugly/an eyesore/frightening/useless/etc. If you want to get really fancy with it, you could discuss symbiotic relationships, as both the animals and Helen benefit from this relationship.


Now I will say, if you are really brave, it would be great to observe real live spiders in action! We have a bug catcher, but I am more than a little freaked out by live arachnids (and insects), so no holding and examining live spiders until Dom is old enough to do all the touching himself. I feel that’s reasonable.

In the meantime, I still wanted to involve science somehow. So we watched a bunch of videos about spiders! Many of these videos touch on the difference between arachnids and insects and this could be a great point to emphasize!

This next video is best for older kids who know how to read already. It has a bunch of facts but you have to read them.


We have a set of bug counters that I bought at a consignment sale. (They are very similar to these.) This set includes both spiders and flies/bees (they look like both), so I felt I could definitely go with this book. We used them to practice simple addition and subtraction. Example: “If the red spider eats two flies, how many flies are left?” You could easily do this with pictures or spiders and flies as well for the visual, or, of course, just talk it through.

Using counting bugs


There is a page in Be Nice to Spiders that describes exactly how Helen builds her web. I thought it would be great if we could follow the instructions in painting our own webs. So we read the instructions one by one and followed them. This was perhaps a little above Dominic’s skill level, but he totally enjoyed it nevertheless and he was very proud as he talked about his web. He enjoyed it so much he wanted to do it twice. When the paint is dry, you have the option of painting on or using stickers or markers or sequins or any other medium you like to add some spiders.

Painting spider webs following the instructions Helen used to spin her web.


Of course for a book involving spiders, we definitely sang The Itsy Bitsy Spider complete with hand motions.


I had this creative idea to create a snack involving string cheese for the web and raisins as flies caught in the web. I basically took the string cheese and separated it and then used those strands to create a web, then added the raisins on top.

Spider web made out of string cheese and raisins Field Trip

If you have a zoo or other place that has an insect collection, it would be great to go look at some real spiders!

Movie/Tv Tie Ins

Of course there is the famous Charlotte’s Web. Guess with Jess Season 1 Episode 5 is “Why Do Spiders Build Webs?” Sesame Street: Animals and Nature Collection (available on Netflix) episode 5 is “Where Is Itsy Bitsy Spider?” Wild Kratts Season 2 Episode 8 is “Secrets of the Spider’s Web”

Have you ever read Be Nice to SpidersLet me know what you think of these activities if you try them out. And let me know if you have any other fun spider activities! 

Circus by Lois Ehlert Story Exploration

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Today we’ll be exploring Circus by Lois Ehlert. (Disclaimer: This and other links found within may be affiliate links, of which I will get a small portion of the funds if you buy from Amazon.) 

Circus by Lois Ehlert Discussion Questions/Summary  

Circus is a fun book! Narrated by the ringmaster, it goes through different acts in the circus, giving you a minor circus feel in your own home.

  1. What was your favorite circus act? Why?
  2. If you were in a circus, what job would you want to have?
  3. If you’ve ever been a real circus, it would be great to compare and contrast what you read in the book with what you saw at the real circus.


PBS has a great physics of circuses section that I recommend checking out!


There are ample opportunities to use this book for simple counting. You could count all the acts, you could count the number of people in some of the acts, count all the people all together.

We also used our snack for this unit to practice patterns. Some of the snacks they mention during the intermission are peanuts and popcorn. So Dominic and I used them to practice simple patterns. ABA, ABBA, AAB, etc.

Making Patterns Out of Popcorn and Peanuts

Arts and Crafts

The style of Circus is all in shapes. So, in light of this, we cut out shapes and made pictures with them – circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, etc. I traced a group of shapes for Dominic to cut out and then he could glue them how he desired. I made one as well of a face.

Circus Shape Art


I found this great video of some of the music that you typically hear associated with circuses. It would be great to play this for your child, maybe even in the background as you read Circus, to help give that circus feel while you read in your announcer voice. Listening to this music while blogging really got me in the mood! You could also attempt whistling Twinkle, Twinkle Little Stars, like one of the acts in the book does.


I really struggled to find some circus history that would be approachable to a preschool aged child. It’s not a subject I’m extremely well-versed in enough to tell Dominic some history of on my own, but at the same time, he loves non-fiction right now so I really wanted to include something. I found this book Pictorial History of the American Circus by John and Alice Durant. We looked at some of the pictures in this book – Dominic especially loved the ones of the people jumping over elephants. Now, I will say this though. This is a huge book. It is also a book meant for adults. It goes quite far back in its history and you may not feel it is all appropriate for your child, depending on their age. But there are certainly many interesting pictures in the book and it may be worth your while to peruse the book and bookmark a few pages that you can share with your child.

Field Trip

The field trip option for this is pretty self-explanatory, but if you can, go to a real circus! Or there are circus museums as well – including one right here in Wisconsin.

Gross Motor Game

This is a great opportunity to practice your “circus skills.” Find a 2×4 and use it as a beginner’s balance beam. If your kids are big enough, you could help them build a human pyramid. Miss Eunice leads her marching snakes, so we also took turns pretending to be Miss Eunice and then pretending to be her snakes, slithering on the ground.

Movie/TV Tie-Ins

Netflix has several circus themed shows or episodes available. Toby’s Traveling Circus is a delightful show that you could definitely watch. Of course there is Dumbo. Dumbo was my favorite movie as a child growing up, but watching it as an adult, it is definitely not as innocent as it seemed. Clifford Season 1, episode 9 deals with the circus. Justin Time Season 2, episode 10 (the second half) deals with the circus. Peg + Cat Season 1, episode 4 deals with the circus.

I hope you enjoyed our second story exploration of Circus by Lois EhlertI’d love to hear your ideas for this book or suggestions of other books you’d like to see covered as well! 

The Gift Giver Review

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. But as always, despite being a sponsored post, my thoughts are true and 100 percent mine. 

I know it’s only October, but Christmas will be here before you know it. And advent even sooner than that.

We have a pretty awesome Advent calendar here in the Brander household. My mother-in-law made it for us.

Custom made advent calendar

And along with this Advent calendar, for every day, we read a Christmas book. Dominic unwraps it before bed and we add the number to the calendar. This is a tradition that everyone in our house enjoys. And so I’m excited to bring you this new Christmas book, The Gift Giver

The Gift Giver Book

The Gift Giver was written by Jacob Haslem and Nick Allen, with gorgeous illustrations by Elissa Weaver. From Amazon, “On Christmas Eve a boy stirs from sleep to find an old man, in the living room, dressed in red with a bag full of gifts. Excitement soon gives way to disappointment as he finds he has received fewer gifts than expected. The old man sees the young boy’s protest and tells the story of his origins and his motives. As the boy becomes privy to this mystery, a question comes to his mind: is it by magic that the old man accomplishes his task, or is it something else… The lesson he learns will change the way he views Christmas forever! If you are a fan of The Polar Express, and T’was the Night Before Christmas, you will love The Gift Giver.”

After this book arrived, I sat down and read it with Dominic. Full disclosure, we don’t actually do Santa in our house. But many people around us do and we don’t pretend he doesn’t exist. But what this book does is explain the Santa tradition (as well as a few other traditions) and connect it back to the real reason for the season: Jesus. I found this book a great way to explain about Santa in a way that will give me words to explain to Dominic why other people do Santa while still being respectful. I would definitely recommend this to other Christian families who are looking to explain that or even those who do Santa themselves, to connect this tradition back to our Savior. I would give this book 4 1/2 stars. It is an excellent book, but when I asked Dominic for his feedback when we finished reading, he told me it was long. I have to agree with him that it is a bit long, but none of the space is wasted, plus the illustrations are beautiful. Despite saying it was long, he still sat for the whole story and for a child who is older than three, I bet it wouldn’t seem as long. I’m looking forward to adding this book to our Christmas tradition!

You can find The Gift Giver on Amazon and GoodreadsDoes The Gift Giver sound like a book that you and your family would enjoy? 

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