Friday, March 20, 2015

They Were Strong and Good

This week, we rowed They Were Strong and Good, written and illustrated by Robert Lawson.  (He is also the illustrator of The Story of Ferdinand and Wee Gillis, both of which are in Volume 2 of FIAR.)  Barnes and Noble writes of it, "Awarded The Caldecott Medal in 1941, They Were Strong and Good is a classic book that follows the path of one family's journey through American history.  Robert Lawson introduces us to his forefathers and with them we brave Caribbean storms, travel to the wharf markets of New York, and fight in the Civil War.  Amidst these adventures Lawson's grandparents meet, marry, and raise a family, and later his parents follow the same cycle of life.  But this book is more than just a story of one family; it's a social history of our country.  It reminds us to be proud of our ancestors -- who they were, what they did, and the effect they had on the nation we live in today."   
After reading the book, we first talked about the geography of this book, which covered many areas (Scotland, Holland, England, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Alabama, and the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Isthmus of Panama).  Once we talked some about each of these areas, we colored our story disk for this book and placed it on New York, where the narrator (Robert Lawson) was born.
To learn more about some of these areas, we used our Usborne Children's Picture Atlas ...
... and our DK Children's World Atlas, which goes in a little more depth.
In one section of the book, it showed illustrations of how the town of the narrator's "mother's mother" had changed over time.  We decided to look for old pictures of our town.  Here are two we found online.
We also talked about how schools and education had changed.  In the story, the narrator's mother had attended a convent as a girl.  I was able to share with Maggie that her own paternal great-grandmother, Rose (pictured below), also attended a convent as a girl.
Here are some pictures of the convent she attended that I showed Maggie from my husband's scrapbook.
We talked some more about her genealogy and got out the family tree she had made when we rowed Grandfather's Journey.
After our discussion on that first day of this row, we made some Caribbean food for dinner -- Jerk Chicken, Black Beans, and Rice, all recipes for this book from The Five in a Row Cookbook (page 60).  Here is our yummy rice (we omitted the red bell pepper).
Our beans!
Maggie's plate!
It was really, really good, especially the chicken!  The marinade in the recipe was superb!  Maggie inhaled it and I plan to make it again!
All of the illustrations in this book are in black and white and the contrast supports the bold, strong tone of the story.
We set out to make some black and white illustrations, too, using rubber stamps and black ink on white paper.  With Easter around the corner, Maggie chose some of my Easter and Spring stamps for her picture.
She loves using that ink pad!
Her stamped Easter picture!  (After I saw it, I wished I had given her a smaller piece to work with so it would look more full.  Oh, well.)
We also noted on the title page that the author drew this illustration, with a pile of items, each representative of someone in the book.  We were excited to come up with our own symbols for the members of our family!
Maggie's picture (of course, in just black and white)!
She drew an XBOX controller for herself [sigh], a fishing pole for our cat, Ellie, a chef's hat for her Daddy, a pencil for me, and a bag of cat treats for Emmett.  Cute.
Later, we talked about beekeeping, as the narrator's mother learned the art as a young girl.  We studied bees extensively in our Science curriculum and when we rowed The Bee Tree (, so talking about them again with this row was just review for us.  Here, Maggie is noticing the hexagonal shape of a pencil, like the shape in honeycomb.
Then, using our geoboard, she made some more hexagons.
We also watched these two great YouTube videos on collecting honey.
This one features homeschoolers!
It was another educational row!  Of course we have our favorites, but I honestly don't think we have met one FIAR book we don't like!  See you again soon!


  1. My favorite thing about FIAR (by far!) is the legacy of memories and learning we are building together. How fun to row a book about that exact theme.....legacy. Your dinner looks super yummy. As always, it looks like you really selected some sweet activities for Maggie to enjoy with this book. Emma loves stamping with ink pads too. Anything crafty!!

    We just finished Make Way For Ducklings (love!) and are taking a rabbit trail this week to study more on George Washington Carver and his work with peanuts. :-) It will be a short week for us because I am taking a little trip. Hope you guys have a great week, and give my regards to Mickey and Minnie!! :-)

    1. Thanks, Brooke! Sorry it took me so long to reply. We had vacation and are still recovering with everything else we are doing. Now, we are busy getting ready for VBS at our church! Do you and Emma have any fun Summer plans?