Fireflies: July 2012         

Jul 30, 2012

CLIP Book Review: Olympig!

Author & Illustrator:   Victoria Jamieson
                                                 The story of a pig going for Olympic gold.
Jamieson’s young porker, Boomer, is the first pig to compete in the history of the Animal Olympics. He’s a charger—“Hard work and practice make an Olympic champion”—but still a pig: not as strong as the elephant, as speedy as the cheetah or as brawny as the gorilla. A mean-spirited reporter tries to diminish his hopes, yet Boomer can only see gold dancing before his eyes. And they are wonderful eyes, enormously expressive in his great pig head as he proceeds to get trounced in every event. The reporter needles Boomer after every loss, and Boomer finally snaps when his cannonball fails to impress the diving judges and he quits. But his mother tells him how proud she is, and he returns for a slam-bang finale. Hope springs eternal; it’s not winning, but how you play the game; you can’t win them all.        OLYMPIC WEBSITE

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Jul 28, 2012

CLIP Review: How to Train with a T. Rex and win 8 Gold Medals.

Age Range: 6 - 9
Here's another Olympic-themed written by Michael Phelps.  Read it with your child to illustrate the time and discipline it takes to win 8 gold medals.  Share How to Train... with your child, as together you watch Phelps compete in the 2012 Summer Games.

Booklist Review
Michael Phelps recaps the six-year regimen that put him in shape to win a record eight
gold medals at the last Summer Olympics.  he livens his recitation of laps and reps with comparisons - "I trained for six years!  That's a kindergartener's whole life!  The the same as 42 dog years!"  and after swimming 17 races in nine days to reach to reach the finals, won the 100-Meter Butterfly by 1/100th of a second - "about the length of a fingernail."  Digitally rendered artwork humorously depicts the action, making the book visually appealing.  The author states, "I got so strong from training that my legs could press 300 pounds 60 times in one workout.  That's 18,000 pounds total, or nine tons!  I could leg-press a Tyrannosaurus Rex and 10 velociraptors!"  Providing an overview of an Olympian's rigorous preparations, this picture book may be used to inspire children to do great things and closes with a view of the athlete lounging on a sofa, holding a bowl of broccoli and thinking up new goals. 

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Jul 27, 2012

CLIP Book Review: G is for Gold Medal

Author: Brad Herzog
Illustrator: Doug Bowles
Sugested Age: Preschool - Grade 3

This is the time of year when we begin teaching our preschoolers, "A is for Apple, B is for Ball...". Well, what could be more fun and appropriate than to introduce them to the alphabet through the exciting happenings of the Olympics?  

This brightly illustrated book begins with  "Ancient Greece and Athens, that's our first letter - A. The Olympics began then and there, long ago and far away."  "F" explains the five rings of the Olympic flag, "O" is for opening ceremony, and "P" for Paralympic games that bring together physically and mentally disabled athletes.  

Along with the poem for each letter there are also milestones of sports events explained, as well as facts about athletes who had an impact on history.  Understanding some of the obstacles that some of the athletes overcame as children (under "K"- Kids) is both amazing and inspirational.  Some of the things you will learn may be humorous. See if you can find out who was called "the world's laziest high jumper" and why someone jumped into the swimming pool with their clothes on! When you finish reading you'll have both a clearer understanding about how the Olympics have impacted history and how the athletes involved have helped to change world views.

  A medal, that's our letter M.                         OFFICIAL OLYMPIC WEBSITE
  You won! They're cheering loud!
  Stand for your national anthem.                    OLYMPIC WORKSHEETS & ACTIVITIES
  You made your country proud.

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Jul 25, 2012

CLIP Review: A Walk in London

Author & Illustrator:  Salvatore Rubbino

We thought we would review a few books for the Olympics even though this month's theme is America.  (Actually is there anything more American than cheering for the red, white, & blue?)  We hope you enjoy our picks.  We begin with a wonderfully illustrated book about London.  I'll be surprised if you don't enjoy it as much as your children (perhaps even more).

A Booklist Review
"A wide-eyed girl and her mother explore London's busy streets and towering views in this child-friendly tribute to an incomparable city. London - the perfect place for a girl and her mother to spend the day! Follow them as they alight the classic red bus and begin a whirlwind tour of some of London's most iconic land marks. Try and climb the awe-inspiring lions at Trafalgar square, take in the ritualistic changing of the guard, experience the whispering gallery at St. Paul's and if you're lucky - you may even spot the Queen! 

In this ode to Britain's bright and bustling capital city, Salvatore Rubbino's fresh, lively paintings and breezy text capture the delight of a young visitor experiencing the wonders of London firsthand. And of course, what's London without a little rain? It is visually stunning, evoking all the colour and excitement of the capital from a child's perspective. It is packed with nuggets of information about London that both enlighten and entertain. It is a delight both to those who know London well and to those who have never visited."

Olympic Activities to share with your children - Click here for LINK  Even though this was written during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, it still has some great ideas like create an edible Olympic torch by scooping lemon sorbet onto a pointed sugar cone and top with flame colored sprinkles.

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Jul 23, 2012

Print Comm: Writing, "Thank You"!

A Photo Thank You

Saying "Thank You" is such an important trait to teach and reinforce in your child.  This month's print communication project is to simply "write" a "Thank You".  Even if your child is too young to actually compose a thank you note, they can still participate in the process.  By age 4, children should be able to say "thank you" for a gift received in person and help a parent write a thank-you note.  Consider taking a picture of your child(ren) holding up THANK YOU, and send it to someone to whom you want to show gratitude.
Some more IDEAS on how to say Thank You.

Some additional thoughts on giving thanks to share with your child:
1 Chronicles 16:34
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 107:8

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men,

1 Corinthians 15:57

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 3:15 - 17

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Jul 20, 2012

CLIP Review: America the Beautiful

Author:  Katharine Lee Bates
Illustrator:  Wendell Minor
Illustrator:  Chris Gall
Preschool - Grade 2
Illustrator:  Wendell Minor
Illustrator:  Chris Gall
The song "America the Beautiful" has been stirring our hearts for generations. As you read those familiar words while feasting your eyes on these stunningly illustrated books, your spirits will soar with patriotic pride!  Each book, while completely different in the way it accompanies Bates's classic poem, captures the essence of America uniquely. 

Minor's illustrations are exquisite paintings of American landscapes from all across our nation: Grand Teton National Park, Kitty Hawk, Plimoth Plantation, Mount Rushmore...  At the end of the book a  small painting of each page is again shown and its U.S. location and reason for being in the book is explained.   Gall is a great-great-grandnephew of Katharine Lee Bates and grew up with the lyrics hanging on his living room wall. He gives a detailed description of what is behind his drawings at the end of the book, explaining that his drawing of Pike's Peak for "purple mountain majesties" was because it was from that summit in 1893 that Bates was inspired to write "America the Beautiful."

Enjoy the patriotic journey across land and time as you sing through these amazing and spectacular books. America really is beautiful - from sea to shining sea!  
America the Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! 


Jul 18, 2012

July Masterpiece Response

[Fireflies Visual Comm]
The masterpiece entitled "Bald Eagle" by John James Audubon, who was a naturalist and artist from the 1800s, was the subject of our last post.  His publication, "Birds of North America," and the society that was formed, the Audubon Society, which seeks to preserve these birds, are a wonderful legacy he leaves with us.

The eagle, a symbol of freedom for America, is a bird many students are fascinated by and want to draw.  Here is a cute lesson for K-2nd graders I noticed the folks at Busy Bee Kids Crafts had fun with that I did with the students at Circle Christian School this year when we were learning about the artist John James Audubon.

You will need:  brown construction paper for the hand prints and foot print, white construction paper for the feathers, yellow or orange for the beak and light blue or dark blue for the background, plus the ever-popular "googly" eye, scissors and glue sticks.  Trace hands and one foot.  Cut out and arrange to make a flying eagle.  Add white feathers and beaks along with a googly eye so your eagle can see where he is going!

For the 3-6th graders, we had a drawing lesson on how to draw eagles.  
Here is the link to the lesson from my art website:

and above are some of our eagles that came out of our lesson... aren't they sweet?
May you soar through your week on wings like eagles!

Written by Laura Bird Miller, artist/art instructor Circle Christian School

"But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles;    
 they will run and not grow weary,   
 they will walk and not be faint."

Isaiah 40:31

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Jul 16, 2012

July Master Artist: John James Audubon

Can you think of anything more touching as a symbol of American and Christian freedom as the eagle and the lamb?  As the Fireflies monthly topic, this symbolic and beautiful painting above was painted by our master artist of the month, John James Audubon. This painting is less known than Audubon's other eagle drawings, like the one shown below, but holds many deep truths.
Interestingly, "The Eagle and The Lamb," above, is an oil painting completed by Audubon in 1828 when he was in London. It now is found on the walls of his old historic home in Mill Grove, Montgomery County, in the city of Audubon, Pennsylvania, and was one of four large oil paintings Audubon he painted between 1828 and 1829, supposedly created to help pay for the production of his book "Birds of America." 

FOR YOUR STUDENTS/CHILDREN:  The hand-colored lithograph, below, is Plate #14 from the Octavo Edition of "Birds of America" created by Audubon from 1840 to 1844. It is quite well known because it is in his "Birds of America" collection and is often shared in schools across America.  Mr. Audubon as a scientist/naturalist and artist, tells us stories through his pictures.

Symbols are used quite often in art.  We use symbols to convey truths, to draw attention to certain topics, and often to simplify a visual message. Not only is the eagle our country's symbol of freedom, in the painting below, Audubon tells a story about the life and habits of this great bird.

"The Bald Eagle" by our Artist and Naturalist Audubon, below, includes his field notes:

"The figure of this noble bird is well known throughout the civilized world, emblazoned as it is on our national standard, which waves in the breeze of every clime, bearing to distant lands the remembrance of a great people living in a state of peaceful freedom
May that peaceful freedom last forever!" 
(Quote taken from

Reflection Questions:
1.  What do you see in this drawing? (A bald eagle with a catfish.)
2.  What do you think eagles eat? (Fish and other small animals.)
3.  Why do you think Mr. Audubon drew this bald eagle with a fish in its talons and didn't just draw the bird by itself?  (Because in telling a visual story about the bird, he shows us that the eagle is a 'bird of prey' which means it hunts primarily while flying using its sharp eyesight and other senses to find its food.)
4.  Why do you think he is called a "bald" eagle?  (Because his head is white.)
5.  What else is white on the bald eagle?  (His tail feathers.)
6.  Where is the bird?  (On a rock.)

Audubon went through a lot of hard times in his lifetime; his life is a symbol as well of the spirit of young America, when the wilderness was seemingly endless, difficult, yet exciting. He was born in what is now the island of Haiti but grew up, actually, in Pennsylvania where he loved to watch birds and learn from nature on the farm where he lived.  When he grew up, he traveled, often with many difficulties along the way, documenting his book the "Birds of America" with his writings, drawings, and paintings. He was a hunter but he also wrote later on of the importance of wildlife conservation and taking care of the animals God has given us to look after. 

What can you and your students do to help raise awareness in order to preserve and protect the bald eagle? 

If you live in Orlando, you may wish to take your students to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey located at 1101 Audubon Way, Maitland, FL 32751, or if you are in the Pennsylvania area, drop by the home Audubon grew up in!  Also, check out the National Audubon Society at  

Let's help our little students start now to understand the importance of our freedom also means the responsibility of taking care of the animals & birds God has so graciously given us dominion over!

Written by Laura Bird Miller, artist/art instructor, Circle Christian School, Orlando, FL


Jul 13, 2012

CLIP Review: America - A Patriotic Primer

Author:  Lynne Cheney
Illustrator:  Robin Preiss Glasser
Grades 1-3 (and their parents!)

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself."  Your children will be inspired by this book about America, as their knowledge of our country's past is expanded by a wealth of information, comprised alphabetically of principles on which America was founded. 

 One of my favorite pages is "Q". "Q is for America's Quest for the new, the far, and the very best."  The page has drawings and a highlight of the lives of Louis Armstrong, Emily Dickinson, Babe Ruth, Martha Graham, I.M. Pei, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Althea Gibson, and a quote concerning space exploration from John F. Kennedy.

In her introduction, Cheney states, "I wrote this book because I want my grandchildren to understand how blessed we are. I want them to know they are part of a nation whose citizens enjoy liberty and opportunity such as have never been known before."

This incredible book, whose illustrations have been described as having been drawn with childlike joy and exuberance, will be one you and your family will pore over, discuss, and cherish. Terms like equality and valor are explained and the proper folding of a flag is shown.  And if you still have trouble remembering where all 50 states are located, find the "U" for United States page and start enjoying the picture! You may even end up learning the capitals :)

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Jul 11, 2012

Sugar Star & Flag Cookies [Taste of Home]


1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Decorating icing and/or colored sugars


  • In a large bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and extracts. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until easy to handle.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut with floured 2- to 3-in. cookie cutters. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. 
  • Bake at 350° for 9-11 minutes or until set. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Decorate with icing and additional sugars if desired. Yield: 10 dozen.
    This recipe comes from Taste of Home  WEBSITE
    Nutritional Facts
    1 cookie equals 51 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 12 mg cholesterol, 42 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 1 g protein. Diabetic Exchange: 1/2 starch.
Originally published as Sugar Star & Flag Cookies in Taste of Home October/November 2009


I cannot wait for you to meet Rachel Skvaril [The Fondant Flinger]!  She has agreed to create for us, Fireflies theme-based recipes each month beginning this September.   We are all in for a huge treat, I promise you.  Here's an example of her talents as she creates a nutritional red, white, and blue treat for Fireflies Presents!   We will introduce Rachel properly in September...In the meantime, thanks Rach, for becoming a part of the Fireflies Team!

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Jul 9, 2012

Favorite Apps: Sandra Boynton Apps

I love reading books to my children that also appeal to my sense of silliness and humor.  Boyton books make me smile as I read them so I don't mind reading them over and over again.  They are both quirky and fun.

If you haven't discovered Sandra Boyton books and illustrated albums, go immeditately to your local library and check them out - especially the following:

1.  Belly Button Book (a personal family favorite)
2.  Moo, Baa, La, La, La &
3.  The Going to Bed Book

4. Blue Moo, the album.  Jukebox hits from the past
Boyton has created 4 albums each with a different focus and sound.  Philadelphia Chickens is my favorite album.   You will hear more about this particular album in the future as we are creating a "Fireflies Presents" night based on it.

The following video entitled The Making of Blue Moo, is a behind the scenes account of how so many stars from the past came together to make this album.   You will enjoy the Making of Blue Moo as it gives you a fun insight into the author/illustrator/mom, Sandra Boyton.

Now on to the purpose of this post - sharing some of my favorite apps!  The very first digital Sandra Boynton book app is terrific!  Boynton Moo Media teamed up with award-winning Loud Crow Interactive, to bring to life her beloved, funny, wildly best-selling bedtime board book, The Going to Bed Book.

5.  The Going to Bed Book [digitally interactive]

I must to share one more.  Her best-selling book of all time has also been turned into a digitally interactive format with sound, movement and "gloriously unpredictable interactivity."

6.  Moo, Baa, La, La, La

Favorite Apps Update:
For those of you who are loyal fans of Nighty Night, (reviewed February 15, 2012) they just updated their app with new animals.  There is a cost to update, but it's worth it!  Oh, do I ever love this bedtime app.  If you haven't purchased Nighty Night yet, and have a young child who reaches out to turn off the lights as you pass each light switch... just buy it - don't even bother reading the review!  It's just that wonderful for little ones.   


Jul 6, 2012

CLIP Review: Lady Liberty: A Biography

Author - Doreen Rappaport

Illustrator - Matt Tavares
Grades 1 - 3

When did the vision for building this elegant lady begin? Why was the dream of creating and sharing her with the world so inspiring that a team of sculptors and engineers united their energies and skills to construct her? 

From the moment Edouard De Laboulaye shared his dream until Lady Liberty's unveiling in New York's Harbor some 20 years later, you'll both see the behind-the-scenes progress of her "growth" as well as read detailed accounts from those involved.  Each person gives an account of their part in Liberty's creation from a different point of view, and yet they share one common bond: to them liberty was not some abstract concept. Each knew what it was like to live without liberty, and knew it was something worth celebrating.

One hint - You'll want to have a yardstick nearby when reading this as the dimensions for the statue are given.  Most of your children will probably be about the size of Liberty's mouth (3' 0") to the length of her nose (4' 6").  Have fun measuring her torch or hand, but I wouldn't suggest you try her height from base to torch! When gazing on the last, lovely illustration, I couldn't help singing, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing..." 

 More resources about the Statue of Liberty are given at the end of this book.
 The official website of the Statue of Liberty is

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Jul 4, 2012

Verbal Comm: The Pledge of Allegiance

[verbal communications]
The text of the Pledge of Allegiance is illustrated with stunning photographs of American landscapes, monuments, and flags. The meaning of the pledge, its history, and information about the flag are included.

This book by Scholastic Press is a wonderful tool for children ages 4 and up who want to learn about the origin and purpose behind reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Pledge of Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.

Rachel Faith leads us in the Pledge!

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Jul 2, 2012

A 4th of July Craft!

Create something special with a common kitchen utensil to celebrate this Independence Day.   What a great idea from the blog, Family Chic.

4th of July Noisemakers

Click here for their BLOG and complete instructions.

July Reflections: Happy Birthday, Miss Liberty

Recollections of my preschool birthdays still bring me joyous smiles. Being born on July 3rd was certainly not without festivity. Flags, parades, decorations, picnics - all of this seemed like quite a big "to-do" just for "my" birthday. Once again Mom had made my traditional 2-layer pink, white and blue checkerboard cake (being frugal meant not using too much red food coloring). "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" was written in crooked red icing and little flags were all around the edge.

My sisters and I could hardly wait until it got dark after supper, because we knew what was coming - sparklers! We always got sparklers on my birthday! Around and around the
yard we would run, squealing with delight, writing our names in the air.  Box after box of sparklers were discarded, until we carefully lit our final one and danced in circles, bowing and twirling until the last little flicker went out.  "Remember," daddy said, "there'll  be bigger fireworks tomorrow."  Wow! Were my birthdays ever special!  But soon after I started school, I came to realize that "my" birthday fireworks were not for me at all, but for a famous lady. Someone named Lady Liberty. Who was she? Why was she so special?  

Through the years my pride in America grew as my knowledge of our great country deepened.  I loved being called a "firecracker baby" and until I married and left home, always insisted on having  a pink, white and blue checkerboard birthday cake with flags. And yet something was missing; I had a longing to meet this lady with whom I'd shared such fond memories. Then it finally happened. On my first trip to New York City, just 10 years ago, as my plane was flying over Ellis Island, the clouds parted and there she was. As I stared down at the loveliest lady in American history, I could only imagine how many hundreds of thousands of eyes had gazed upon her with hope for a new life. Her golden torch gleamed in the sunlight, with flames that do not destroy, but enlighten the future of thousands. I felt 

tears running down my cheeks.  "Oh, Miss Liberty, you deserve ALL the fireworks and even the sparklers!" I whispered.

This month we will be sharing books about the Statue of Liberty, flags and other symbols of our country.  It's never too early to instill pride in America. 

Mary Byrne Kline

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