Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Raft

It has been a while since our last post.  Life happens and the blog gets pushed aside, unfortunately.  I have two Five in a Row (FIAR) posts to add, so here is the first of those two, from Volume 4, The Raft by Jim LaMarche.  This is a beautiful book.  Maggie and I just loved the illustrations.  Amazon's synopsis of it reads, "Inspired in part by his own childhood, this gorgeous picture book from Jim LaMarche, the beloved illustrator of A Story for Bear and The Elves and the Shoemaker, tells the story of one stubborn boy's unexpectedly wonderful summer on the river.

"This is an imagination-sparking story about appreciating the simple, natural joys of the world and the people in it, and about discovering and exploring one's own talents ... Nicky is convinced that his summer with his grandmother in the Wisconsin woods is going to be the worst summer ever.  She cooks food that he doesn't like, there's an art studio where her living room should be, and he's expected to do chores -- including fishing, the most boring chore ever.

"But one afternoon, while Nicky is trying to catch their dinner, a raft drifts down the river towards him.  The raft has a calming magic about it, affecting both Nicky and the wildlife of the river and woods.  Through the raft and the adventures it brings him on, Nicky finds new common ground with his grandmother, a fellow river rat, who encourages him to explore his newfound talent for art."   
After reading the book, we talked about Wisconsin.  We read more about it on page 54 of The United States of America: A State-by-State Guide by Millie Miller & Cyndi Nelson ...
... and watched a YouTube video about Wisconsin at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbQ0x3fT-B8, below. 
Our story disk for this read was then placed on Wisconsin on our US map.
In the story, Nicky is disappointed he will not be able to enjoy television for the entire summer while he is away.  This gave us the opportunity to learn about the history of television.  To help, we watched a few videos on the same.  The first YouTube video we watched is called "Television History," and can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aIc7dOSUQA (below).
The second video, also on YouTube, is called "Development of Television - Nipkow, Baird, Zworykin," and is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9bV5LdlIhs (below).
The third and final video we watched ("TV Evolution") is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlTZT3c36Z8 (below).
We then talked more about the characters in the story before having fish with cornbread and honey for dinner, like Nicky and Grandma did in the story.  (The fish in the story was fried, but we made a gluten-free version, breaded with panko.) 
On Day 2 of studying this story, we read The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, which features a river rat, something Grandma referred to herself as in The Raft.  (We love this illustrated version by Rene Cloke!)
We also talked about the vocabulary in this book, as well as the creative imagery and more (see pages 2.4-2.5 in the Volume 4 manual).

Here is an illustration from the book of the raft that Nicky finds, covered in drawings of local wildlife.
Using Popsicle sticks, we constructed our own raft.
We then used this How to Draw: Baby Animals activity book to learn to draw some of the animals we saw in the story.
Here, Nicky is drawing a great blue heron.
In the story, he also rescues a fawn from deep mud ...
 ... then draws it, too, on his raft!
Maggie also decided to draw a fawn on the wooden raft we made.
Looks great, Mags!
She drew a heron, a fox, a river otter, and a fawn, all animals seen in The Raft.  (Later, we would take our raft to the river to float it, as you will see farther down in this post.)
In the story, Grandma has drawings and a sculpture, as well as books, on bears.  She says to Nicky, "The real one hangs out at the dump."  
Recently, we just studied bears extensively in our Zoology 3 course (see our post at http://homeschoolingmom2mags.blogspot.com/2017/10/caniforms-continued.html), so we knew from her statement about it hanging out "at the dump" that she was referring to a black bear.  During that study, we visited the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum in Montgomery, Alabama and saw many great exhibits, including this stuffed American black bear.  (The following three pictures are from the aforementioned post on our study of bears.)
 Here, Mags is feeling real fur from a black bear.
 And she drew the tracks of a black bear in her science notebook.
Also at that museum, we saw raccoons ...
... skunks, and many other animals seen in The Raft.
We also learned more about badgers on page 11 of The Usborne First Encyclopedia of Animals ...
... and in this great YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2_d-ameu3o (below).
We watched another video of a muskrat up close at 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VoADe_SroE (below).
Before our field trip to the river to wrap up this book study, we also talked about fishing, ways you can see underwater, coniferous and deciduous trees, and more wildlife (see pages 2.9-2.11 in the Volume 4 manual).

We live along the Chattahoochee River in Georgia.  We found an awesome resource detailing the many species found in the area of the Chattahoochee at https://irma.nps.gov/NPSpecies/Search/SpeciesList.  We searched first for the mammals found there, then the birds, followed by the reptiles.  We printed these species lists and added a red checkmark if they were spotted in The Raft and decided to add a blue checkmark if we spotted them in person as we explored the river.
Here is Mags, standing alongside the Chattahoochee River!
We walked around, made note of the wildlife we saw, had hamburgers for lunch (like Nicky and Grandma did his second night at her house), then decided to float our raft!
It floated well!
We let it go, hoping someone else (another Nicky) would find it.
Next up?  Watch for our post on Angelo by David Macaulay (also from Volume 4)!


  1. Nice! I woukd love to get back into FIAR, but we have been in such a BUSY phase of life right now. Hopefully soon!

    1. We still love it! We don't row as often as we used to, but we fit them in when we miss it.