Fireflies: June 2012         

Jun 29, 2012

CLIP Review: Henry Aaron's Dream

Author and Illustrator: Matt Tavares
Grades 1-3

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" We often ask our children that and smile at their answers, encouraging them to follow their dreams. But Henry Aaron's dream wasn't met with much enthusiasm from his father. In fact, his father knew he shouldn't get his hopes up at all. That's because Henry's dream was to be a big-league baseball player. "Ain't no colored ballplayers," he told Henry. And just as sad, in the 1940's when Henry was growing up, it was even against the law for black kids and white kids to play baseball together.  But  determination and perseverance were deep down inside Henry.  As he followed the career of his hero, Jackie Robinson, he knew that his dream could also come true. 

This is a captivating biography of Henry Aaron's life - from the days as a kid he playing in "Colored Only" parks  through his time in the Negro Leagues to the day he was offered a contract with the Braves! Sometimes dreams do seem impossible and giving up would be much easier.  But I believe that God has placed determination and perseverance within each of us. Knowing that others have faced challenges and overcome injustice and difficulty may be just what your child needs to give them the encouragement to keep dreaming. Henry Aaron's dream came true - what do YOU want to be when you grow up? Keep dreaming!

Illustrations are done in watercolor, ink and pencil. Magnificently done! You'll feel a part of the ballpark, hear the cheering...
Illustrator's first sketch
The final illustration
CLICK HERE for a great overview of the making of Henry Aaron's Dream.

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CLIP Review: The Babe & I

Author:  David A. Adler
Illustrator:  Terry Widener
Grades 1-3

As a child, I was often admonished for wasting  something "perfectly good" that could be re-used. My parents reasoning was always the same; "Young lady, you didn't live during 'The Depression'." Until I was old enough to actually understand that terribly difficult time in our country's history, it made no sense why we saved waxed paper or re-patched the knees of our jeans.  Just as it makes no sense to the young boy in our story when he sees his father one day on a street corner - selling apples! Why isn't he at work? This incredibly written story takes place in 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression. Children of all ages will not only understand the hurt and discouragement this brought, but will be delighted at the boy's spirit of creativity. The title of the book is about a great American baseball hero, but somehow I think you'll get the feeling that there's another hero to the young boy.  His love for his father and his love of baseball make for a winning combination!

David Adler is the award-winning author of more than one hundred books for children. A devoted Yankees fan, he never sold newspapers as a boy, but did deliver eggs and baked goods, rake leaves, and shovel snow to earn pocket money.

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Jun 27, 2012

Print Comm: Play Ball!

Expository writing shares information and informs the reader.  It tells what happened, reports on a subject, explains how to do something and/or describes something.

Ask your child to explain HOW to place baseball.   Depending on the age of your child, have them either dictate their thoughts to you, or write them down themselves.   A favorite "writing" exercise for kindergaten and first grade teachers is to have their students describe how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey.  The results are extremely entertaining, as you can well imagine.  Take the same approach with this exercise.  Ask your child to describe the process of playing baseball and be prepared to ask questions that motivate and result in thoughtful responses.

A side note from my heart...  PLEASE journal if you have small children.   You may think you will remember everything that makes your son/daughter unique as a young child - you won't.   Even though there are many options to capture images and videos today; nothing compares to writing down quotes and documenting family life in a journal.    Why not tuck your child's "Play Ball" dictation in the journal as well - to be enjoyed later!

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Verbal Comm: Casey at the Bat

Don't miss the opportunity to share this wonderful poem with your children.   Read it to them with all the drama and enthusiasm you can muster.  Consider adding to your home library by purchasing the version that is illustrated by one of our favorite author/illustrators - Patricia Polacco!

Casey at the Bat
Written By Ernest Lawrence Thayer, 1888

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning left to play;

And then, when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go, in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which "springs eternal in the human breast;"

They thought, If only Casey could but get a whack at that,
We'd put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn procede Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a no-good and the latter was a fake;

So, upon that stricken multitude grim meloncholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball,

And when the dust had lifted and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second, and Flynn a-huggin' third.

Read Thayer's entire poem HERE

Another illustrated interpretation of Casey at the Bat. Illustrated by C. F. Payne.

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Jun 25, 2012

Moments: El Roi - The God Who Sees ME!

"Mom, look at me," Mariah (4) says as she delights in her new found ability to pump her legs and make the swing go higher and higher all on her own.  

"Mom, come see what I've made," Jacob (10) says as he ushers me into his room and proudly shows me the house he built in his video game.  

"Mom, do you want to hear the new song I wrote?" Isaiah(17) says after hours in the office working out new rifts on his guitar. 

"Mom, you have to see this,"  Isaac(14) says after watching something funny a friend of his posted on Facebook.  

All of these happening within the last couple of days reminded me that we are all born with a profound need to be seen.  One of the things that helped me through some of the hardest places in my life, especially in my childhood, was the assurance that God saw me and knew my circumstances.  He rejoiced in my achievements and grieved over my heart aches. He understood my failures and remembered all my days as He led me into my tomorrows. 

Take comfort today in the shadow of El Roi - The God who sees you.

Genesis 16:13 She (Hagar) gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me, ” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 

Enjoy your "moments",  
Lanise Santala


Jun 22, 2012

CLIP Review: Baseball Saved Us

Author:  Ken Mochizuki
Illustrator:  Dom Lee
Grades 1-3

This story took place during WWII. It is not a happy, feel good story, but it is a story which needed to be shared. The author's note explained that our government moved people of Japanese descent to internment camps from 1942-1945, not knowing who might be loyal to Japan.  Conditions in the camps were rough and fights broke out. "That's when Dad knew we needed baseball." 

The guards in the towers watched as the men and kids transformed the space between barracks into a baseball field. The moms took covers off mattresses and sewed them into uniforms. Soon there were games all the time. The boy in the story was small, and often teased for not being a good player. "Easy out," the other team would call. The guards watched and stared at him. Will his determination and practice pay off? And after the war, when they return home, what will it be like on the baseball team at school?  

Maybe I was wrong...perhaps there is a bit of feel good to this story. I suppose all of us have been left out at times, but we did it, just like this little guy  - he swung and he hit!

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Jun 20, 2012

June Masterpiece Response: Baseball Memories Collage

Memories are precious gifts from God.  Memories made with our children, even more endearing.  Engaging your little one's skills with cutting and coloring, you can also save his/her hand print and their "signature" as well with this sweet memory-making project. 

In my last post we looked at the watercolor masterpiece of my 16-year-old daughter, Amber, who loves baseball and balancing spoons on her nose.  Now you will meet my son in the photo above.  Seven years ago, he played baseball, and his toothless smile and tough-as-nails stance in the photo above still melt my heart.  Since we're traveling down memory lane and talking about baseball, I decided it's time for a fun collage that's great for engaging students and building memories.

You will need for each child: a copy of the coloring page baseball mitt template (emailed FREE to you upon request), a SOLO cup to trace the proper circle size for the baseball, a plastic grocery bag to stuff the ball and glove if desired, scissors, stapler, markers, plain white paper, a sheet of colored paper, and a squirt of washable tempera on a paper plate

First, have your child/student color the mitt in whatever colors they wish!  Next the student will cut out the mitt.  It is an easy shape for little ones to practice on.  (If you wish to stuff your mitt to make it dimensional, like a real mitt, cut out two at a time.)  Staple the two mitts together around the perimeter and leave an opening to stuff the mitt with a plastic grocery bag cut up into pieces and then staple shut.  Trace a SOLO cup on a piece of white paper and, again, cut out two at a time.  Again using the SOLO cup, trace half circles on each side of the ball in red marker to create the red stitching.  Now the student can write their "John Hancock" on the ball and staple around the perimeter so it can be stuffed if you wish.  Finally it's time for the hand print!  If you have a photo, that, too, may be added to your collage.

My neighbor Naomi wanted to get in on the fun so she colored her mitt with pink and purple picked out purple paint.  She also added a fingerprint on the ball.  I'd say she's officially made her mark on this project!
This is my neighbor Naomi who loves art!
Squishy-squashy fun!
Naomi's masterpiece!

Now it's time to mat, frame, or place into a shadow box your beautiful memory collage!  Enjoy and happy memories!

By Laura Bird Miller, artist/K-12 art instructor Circle Christian School


Jun 18, 2012

June Masterpiece: Wombat Up to Bat by Amber Miller

Wombat Up to Bat
watercolor - by Amber Miller
Grade 10, Circle Christian School

Finding a masterpiece about baseball was not an easy task.  In fact, it was nearly impossible!

Lucky for you, I decided to critique one of my high school student's pieces instead because it was completed this spring semester and was totally appropriate for this month's topic:  baseball!  This sweet watercolor shows the spirit and love of baseball in a way that is engaging as well as entertaining!  Notice the balance in the piece.  With the bat partially in the air, it balances the big brown furry critter whose red hat and white ball draw our eyes to the right.  We find the cockeyed red hat as the focal point, whereupon our eyes move to the dark nose and then to the red stitching on the white ball, followed by the angle of the bat which draws our eye up to the left and back around again!  The green-blue ground is contrasted by the yellow-orange sky. 

Isn't he a cute little fellow?  Reminds me of the book review of "Batter Up Wombat!" we just reviewed!  Though our featured fine artist claims to never have read or heard of the book until she read the review, the name "wombat," must conjure up images of furry critters wielding bats for literary artists worldwide who may be enamored by the catchy name.

Our "master" artist, Miss Amber Miller, happens to be my lovely daughter.  She was in my high school art class this year, but I didn't choose this piece because she was my daughter, I actually chose it because it was the perfect piece to critique for this month's baseball-themed masterpiece! 

Miss Amber loves to make people smile and has a whimsical style to her artwork.  She loves baseball, rock climbing, dancing, balancing spoons on her nose, eating beef jerky, and loving Jesus! 

Written by Laura Bird Miller, artist & K-12 Art Instructor, Circle Christian School.  For more information CLICK HERE.

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Jun 16, 2012

CLIP Review: Reading With Dad

Tomorrow is Father's Day.  I think a great gift to give Dad is a children's book.  (This probably doesn't come as a surprise to you.) 

In celebration of Father's Day, I thought I would share a special children's book...for Dad. Reading With Dad is picture book written in verse, but this is a gift book for Dads.  It celebrates the joy of reading aloud and dads spending time with their children.   Reading With Dad moves through the cycle of life as a daughter and her dad share books beginning with The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.  At the end of the book, the daughter reflects:

"The best of the best times I've ever had
                                  are the times I've spent reading with dad."

The author writes, "My hope about this book is that it encourages parents to be aware of the importance of reading to their children—but I hope especially that it encourages fathers to have a special relationship with their children."

Other books to consider for Father's Day:
  1. Guess How Much I Love You
    Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram
  2. Every Friday
    Dan Yacarino
  3. Papa, Do You Love Me?
    Barbara M. Jossee
  4. I Love My Daddy
    Sebastien Braun
  5. A Perfect Father's Day
    Eve Bunting
  6. Daddy Kisses
    Anne Gutman
  7. Daddy All Day Long
    Francesca Rusackas
  8. Father's Day
    Anne Rockwell
  9. It's Father's Day, Charlie Brown!
    Judy Katschke
  10. The Very Best Daddy of All
    Marion Dane Bauer


Jun 15, 2012

CLIP Review: Batter Up Wombat!

Author:  Helen Lester
Illustrator:  Lynn Munsinger
Preschool - Grade 2

For anyone who has never understood the game of baseball, this book will make perfect sense.   Wombat, who has never played baseball, wanders onto the field and being mistaken for a "Wham Bat" is asked to join the Champs.  However, he has no idea why the players are talking so funny.  When they tell him he will need a bat, guess what "bat" he thinks of! He wonders why the catcher would wear a "mask". His team really becomes upset when he actually "steals" third base - and isn't quite sure where to hide it.  But when he is told to "Tag second!" and runs to the second baseman and says, "You're it",  the  disappointment of his teammates makes him feel as though a big cloud is gathering over his head...or is that really happening?! 

You'll love how Wombat saves the day as only Wombat could when a REALLY big cloud appears and threatens everyone.  Perhaps there's also a misunderstood "champ" in your house - this endearing book may help him/her realize there are different ways in which a person can fit in and make a difference.

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Jun 12, 2012

Music: Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Teach your child this American classic and you both will be ready for the next 7th inning stretch!

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.

Complete song and background story HERE

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Jun 11, 2012

Recipe: Baseball Popcorn Balls


  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 2 teaspoons cold water
  • 2 5/8 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup marshmallows
  • 5 quarts plain popped popcorn

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the corn syrup, margarine, cold water, confectioners' sugar and marshmallows. Heat and stir until the mixture comes to a boil. 
    Carefully combine the hot mixture with the popcorn, coating each kernel.
  2. Grease hands with vegetable shortening and quickly shape the coated popcorn into balls before it cools. (Use red string licorice to transform your popcorn balls into a baseball.) Wrap with cellophane or plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

Yield - 20 popcorn balls

Full recipe HERE

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Jun 8, 2012

CLIP Review: Frank & Ernest Play Ball

Author/Illustrator:  Alexandra Day
Grades 1-2

Animal pals Frank, a bear, and Ernest, an elephant, have taken over as managers of the Elmville Mudcats. Not only must Frank and Ernest sell tickets, run batting practice and announce the game, but they must learn the "lingo" of correct terms for their broadcast. When someone tells them that their team is "in the cellar" they quickly consult the Dictionary of Baseball to find out what it means. Hm-m-m, "last place." Then they're told that one of their players "could never hit anything but a can of corn because he insists on hitting with his foot in the bucket." Back to the dictionary they go. Goodness! Someone else has a "rubber arm", and "butterfingers". 

This game is far more complicated than Frank and Ernest had first thought! Can they help the Mudcats climb out of the cellar? This beautifully illustrated book will have you ready to head to the ballpark! Remember to get your seat near the "hot corner" and grab a bag of peanuts. And just in case you need the words to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", they are right in the front of the book.  I'm already singing!

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Jun 6, 2012

POEM: Play Ball!

by Lillian M. Fisher                                                                     [verbal communications]
A great poem for your child to memorize.

It was my turn to bat
And I hit the ball
So hard it sailed
Right over the wall.

The crowd went wild.
I started to run.
How happy I’d be
If my team won.

First base, second,
third—I’m home free!
Hurrah for my team!
Hurrah for me!

From Hopkins, Lee Bennett, comp. 1999. Sports! Sports! Sports! HarperCollins.

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Jun 4, 2012

June Reflections: PLAY BALL!

I am convinced that God has a sense of humor. 

My dad was a college hockey player, an avid baseball player, an eagle scout and an army veteran. He fathered 3 girls.  Being the "girliest" sister, I loved shoes, jewelry and shopping. You can imagine my shock and uncertainty at what to do when my husband and I were blessed with 4 boys!! But in God's perfect wisdom, my dad did a pretty awesome job of teaching my sisters and me to play hockey, pitch a tent and hit a baseball.  I, however, failed miserably at getting my sons to enjoy shopping. But, back to baseball...

It's been said that patience is a virtue. In that case, my dad was a very virtuous man. Summer evenings after supper we would head out to the back yard for some batting practice and games of catch, (always hoping a neighborhood boy would come over to give us some credibility). The clothesline pole was home plate, the old oak tree was 1st base, the bird bath 2nd base, the cracked sidewalk square 3rd. Daddy was pitcher. My shins were black and blue most of the summer from being hit by baseballs. I loved my daddy -
I did not love baseball.

My dad's glove and ball.
Years later our sons played on baseball teams and were not only avid players, but aggressive card collectors. I was amazed at the hours they could spend trading, bargaining, and working out deals in order to complete sets. While working in the garage recently I came across an old trunk. My breath caught as I gazed inside and saw my dad's old baseball mitt and the softball that we used to throw in the backyard. As I held them, memories of those warm summer evenings so long ago flooded over me. I thought of the movie "Field of Dreams" and how Kevin Costner "longs for another catch with his dad". I realized that I was smiling, crying, and wishing that I could play some baseball again. Could it be I really loved that game?! 

During the month of June we're focusing on America's greatest pasttime - baseball
Make time to play ball with your children.   Find a baseball game to attend - whether it's a little league game or a major league game!  There's just something about sitting in the stands of a ballpark with some peanuts, cheering for the home team, the 7th inning stretch, and singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"! 

We're featuring several outstanding books about baseball this month. We guarantee you'll laugh, but grab some tissues as you may also shed a tear or two.
Mary Byrne Kline

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Jun 1, 2012

CLIP Review: Weaving the Rainbow

Author:  George Ella Lyon
Illustrator:  Stephanie Anderson
Ages:  3-7

How do you make a rainbow?  While we normally think of painters dipping their brushes into an array of bright colors, this handsomely illustrated book will present you with an entirely new perspective. A weaver will take you through her yearlong journey of raising and shearing her sheep, then through the process of preparing the wool for weaving. 

As the sheep progress through each stage of their growth the weaver smiles and knows that they "are getting closer to the rainbow." After the shearing, cleaning, combing, spinning and dying, the weaver sits at her loom, feet on the treadles, hands on the shuttle - back and forth, back and forth.  The last page of the book is magnificently illustrated, proving that if you are a weaver, you can make a rainbow with wool. And if you are a sheep, you can BE a rainbow.

(If you are a teacher, don't miss the lesson plan below.)

CLICK HERE for a .pdf of a lesson plan
created by Martha McGovern
for Weaving a Rainbow.