Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fun and Fruiful Faith-Based Read Aloud

For your convenience, in this post, we have provided affiliate links to Dragon Slayers: The Essential Training Guide for Young Dragon Fighters in this post.  If you choose to click through them to make any purchase, we may be blessed with a small percentage of your sale at no extra cost to you.  Thank you.

Today, I just had to share about a fabulous book that has become our breakfast read aloud over the past month:

We had ordered this book, sight unseen, as one of Luke's First Holy Communion gifts based on its reviews and the fact that all of our children have been into arms, armor, knights and medieval times this year.

Now that we've begun reading Dragon Slayers: The Essential Training Guide for Young Dragon Fighters together, I can attest that ordering the book was a fruitful decision.  

The book is written in an expressive, conversational style in the voice of an accomplished Dragon Slayer named Sir Wyrvern Pugilist.  The way Pugilist teaches about "dragons" and what spiritual armor will be necessary to slay them makes reading the book aloud just plain old fun.

Likewise, the way the author Joyce Denham weaves in Scriptural passages from "the Ancient Manual" (the Bible), encourages prayer to the "Mighty One" and teaches about spiritual warfare is masterful.  Difficult concepts become accessible, even entertaining.

Challenging language does, too.  For Dragon Slayers happens to be peppered with excellent vocabulary words (oft defined in parenthetical phrases).

The book also has a well-designed cover, eye-capturing (not scary!) illustrations by Roger Snure throughout and a multi-color layout.  

Plus, I discovered, there is a well-developed website dedicated to the book with extra free materials for young dragon fighters to dig into.  (And a Facebook page, too!)  So, when we finish the book, we can still enjoy more from Sir Wyrvern Pugilist on the related blog.  FUN!

But fruitful?  Really?  


Since beginning to read Dragon Slayers: The Essential Training Guide for Young Dragon Fighters with the children, I have found us referring back to the dragons and armor necessary for fighting them throughout our days.  There's just something about likening sins and obstacles to dragons that makes suggestions for fighting them stick.

There's also something about it all that inspires Luke!

I have been finding drawings of Luke's own interpretations od dragon fighting armor around the house.  (I love it!)

Truly, Dragon Slayers: The Essential Training Guide for Young Dragon Fighters was one of our favorite faith-based gift discoveries.  Engaging, fun and fruitful, we've been thoroughly enjoying it and growing in faith together, too.

What are some of your favorite faith-based gifts and read alouds?

Please feel free to share about them in comment here or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.  If you leave a link to an idea, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

At-Home Piano lessons with Practicality, Promise and Portability {A Review}

As a desire to learn how to play piano has been ignited in our whole gang here, we were super-excited with the opportunity to receive a lifetime subscription to the Complete Set of Books from HomeSchoolPiano in exchange for an honest review.

What is Homeschool Piano?

HomeSchoolPiano is just what our family can use and perhaps what yours can, too!  


It is an online program that offers up to five family members an opportunity to learn piano at home at their own pace through video-based lessons that typically run under ten minutes each.

Homeschool Piano Review

These lessons can help kids and adults alike to learn piano from a beginner level or beyond at any time of the day or night as long as you have a 49 key keyboard or piano and a computer, tablet or similar with reliable internet connection.  (For those who are unable to watch the videos online, there is a link that allows you to download mp3 files for audio and mp4 for video, but I cannot attest to how that goes...)

Happily, HomeSchoolPiano is affordable as well.

There are two payment options for the same fabulous unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students:

1.  The Success Package (a single payment of $299)

2. The Payment Plan (3 monthly payments of $99.97 per month):

What does the Complete Set of Books include?

Homeschool Piano Review

When you sign up for HomeSchoolPiano Complete Set of Books, you receive online access to:

  • CorePiano (for absolute beginners):  This section contains over 30 lessons where you will learn things like how to sit at the piano, how to play the notes (through the grabbing technique) and basic music theory.  It is a great place to start if you have no familiarity with the piano, or, if like us, you want to solidify what you already know.

  • Book 1 (for beginners):   This books teaches you how to read music and create your own music.  (That's right, it encourages skill and personal creativity.)

  • Book 2 (for the beginner to intermediate students):  This book continues, of course, from Book 1, offering more about rhythm, technique and music reading.

  • Book 3 (for intermediate level students):   This book, likewise, expands on earlier skills and offers lessons on how to create piano arrangements and to become a well-rounded piano player.  (I cannot say much about it yet as none of us are at that level yet!  However, we know we'll get there through the convenience of lifetime access in 10-minute or under segments!)

Each book contains six units, with each of these units containing seven 5-10 minute or so lessons.

Homeschool Piano Review

These lessons are built around a 6-step cycle that touches on all of the nine National Standards for Music Education and provides a well-rounded musical curriculum.

  • Technique
  • Rhythm
  • Ear Training
  • Reading Music
  • Song
  • Improvisation. 

More importantly to me, (since I am not huge on standards-based curriculum) is that the approach makes it easy for students to understand and apply what they are learning, and, thereby, facilitates growth in piano playing fun and expertise.

In short,  HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books means piano for kids, piano for Mom and piano for Dad in increments of time and skill that can fit easily into the seasons of life!

Our Take

When we first received access to HomeSchoolPiano, I created logins for each person in my family and, then, we all sat down under one login to begin the first Core lessons together before bedtime, taking turns at the piano.

We all decided we liked the program and will use it to further our personal music and piano abilities, but only one of us decided to do that right now:  Nina.  

(Daddy has been working overtime and wants to use the time he is at home for sleep or excursions.  Mommy is trying to spend less time online when the kids are awake and the kids keep outlasting her at night so her plan to learn piano at night has been foiled.  Luke, unfortunately, lost most of his computer privileges for the summer and has been using what time he is allotted for another purpose.  Jack has been on a Lego kick when we are home and, to be honest, being summer, we are not home much)

I am okay with the fact that only Nina is utilizing the program at present though. In fact, I am actually thrilled.  It offers her something she loves that is "just hers" for now and sets her up for "teaching" us (along us learning ourselves from the videos, of course,) in the fall. 

And, oh does Nina love the piano and her ability to be independent with it! 

Even independent outside as the photos sprinkled throughout this post attest.

For Nina also loves to be out of doors and HomeSchoolPiano offers a win-win solution.  

On the day pictured, I helped Nina take the keyboard, laptop and a stool outside, where she happily and intently experienced lessons.

As she did so, I was reminded of a number of things about HomeSchoolPiano that make me smile so far.  Among them are:

  •  Portability:  Even though we have no tablet, we do have a laptop, an extension cord and a keyboard set up that is not tough to move about.  That means we can take lessons outside or even on a trip to see grandparents in the coming year. 

  • Independence!  Once logged in, my children can handle lessons on their own.

  • Continuity (and Review): It is easy to pick up where you left off with lessons, but also easy to go back and review if there has been a lag between lesson times or if you simply want to go over something again.  Further, the lessons are well-laid out in digestible increments so there seems little chance any of us will miss any foundational skills before building further ones.
  •  Convenience:  Although I think developing in-person connections with locals is vital, our family simply cannot budget time nor money right now for piano lessons times five (or even times two or three for that matter.)  Further, because we are currently in a season of homeschooling that is more out-and-about schooling than actually being-at-home schooling, I appreciate the convenience of any of being able to learn piano in ten minutes or under day or night.

  •  Unity:  Since we are all using the same program at our own paces, we can all help and encourage one another - and sometimes even share time on the same lessons (whether as a review or a peak ahead.)

  • Training and Inspiration:  I appreciate the balance of typical music training and creative inspiration.  With encouragement to vocalize, improvise and master piano skills.

  • Accountability:  Although grades are not a focus in our home, personal accountability of some sort is important in life.  I like that there are online quizzes to help us all be honest with ourselves about how we are doing

  • Relaxed Learning: In an ideal world, there would be daily time, or at least regular time, each week to learn piano (and to pursue the gazillion other interests and commitments we have).  In reality, our family tends ti dive into things in spurts.  The fact, then, that we have lifetime access to HomeSchoolPiano allows us to learn completely without pressure as opportunity and interest allow.

For our family, HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books offers practicality and promise for our piano-learning desires.  Nina is progressing and becoming the "expert" among us.  The rest of us began to progress, but also had the freedom to put that progress on hold until fall.

Learn More

Homeschool Piano Review

Visit HomeSchoolPiano on:

See how other members of the School House Review Crew have been enjoying HomeSchoolPiano.

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How would unlimited lifetime access to piano lessons bring delight to your home?  Have you found other ways to include music in your learning and fun?
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Montessori-Inspired Success: Moveable Alphabet + Beautiful Picture Book

{This post contains affiliate links.  If you click on them to purchase anything, we may receive compensation at no cost to you.  Thank you for helping our family should you choose to do this.}

Nina is an emerging reader who likes to read "real books" and to play with small cards.  So, the other day, we enjoyed a Montessori-esque lesson with both.

First, I asked Nina if she'd like to work with our DIY printed moveable alphabet.  When she said she would, I began a game of seek-and-find with her.  

"Can you find the letter that makes the sound /h/?"  I said.  Nina searched for an "h" and placed in on the floor.

"How about an /a/?"  "And a /v/?"  We continued on.

"What do those letters sound like together?"  I asked.

"H-a-v, hav."  Nina smiled.

"Yes.  Now, let's find an 'e' and put it next to them.  This is a word.  The 'e' makes no sound.  It doesn't even make the 'a' long.  Do you know the word?"

"Have!"  Nina shouted.

"Shall we try another one?" I queried. 

Nina nodded in the affirmative and, so, I proceeded with our "game", having Nina spell all the words she would need to be familiar with to read Eric Carle's Have You Seen My Cat?

Then, I told Nina that I was confident that she could read a whole book all by herself if she wished to do so.  A beautiful book that has an illustration in it that reminds me of a story from when I was a little girl.

Of course, Nina wanted to read the book!

She asked me to hold the book for her as she read, and, then, took it into her own lap as she decoded every word of text while enjoying Eric Carle's beautiful illustrations.

Proud as punch, Nina finished reading the picture book.  Then, she asked me to tell her the story about when I was a little girl.

When I was about 10, my grandfather was babysitting my brother, sisters and me for a weekend, when our cat went missing.  We looked and looked for her and, when we finally found her, we discovered that she had been hiding for a reason.  She had birthed a litter of seven kittens. 

Nina asked me question after question, and, later that night, retold my memory - in great detail - to her dad.

Since then, Nina has mentioned my childhood story several times, re-read Have You Seen My Cat? to me and spontaneously spelled words with our DIY moveable alphabet.

I'd call that one successful Montessori-inspired experience.

How have you adapted Montessori materials and techniques and connected them to your children's needs and interests lately?


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Encouragement for Parents of Boys that Are A Handful at Mass

Does your child "hate" Mass? Do not despair.

Forge on. Pray. Keep going and growing in your own faith and encouraging your child to go and grow, too.

You may be surprised what happens.

I certainly was!

Yes, He Really Asked to Be An Altar Boy

It was with some trepidation that in early June I drove about an hour with my children to a Latin Mass in the Rite of Braga.

Experience has proven that Mass with my boy can be anything but a reverent experience at times.  Even a quick, local Mass in English can be challenging for Luke (and his two younger siblings, as well.)  So, although the friend who had invited us to the Latin Mass assured me that the priest offering the Mass was fabulous and "gets" kids, I was hesitant to pile into our minivan to go experience what I feared might become a Mass of mayhem.

The Spirit moved me to do so, though.  And - praise God! - in the end, someone else was moved, too.

As Luke experienced the Rite of Braga Mass, which acted as the closing Mass to our homeschool group's year of studying Medieval times, he looked up to me and said, "Mom, I want to be an Altar Sever."

I was shocked!

My camera was not working well the day of the Medieval Mass, but I want to share this photo as it is significant.  Before the Mass began, the priest offered a brief lesson on the Rite of Braga Mass and the architecture of the church we were in.  When he asked for a volunteer to help him explain the symbolism of the building, Luke raised his hand.  He was picked and, since Luke can be quite an erratic volunteer,  I thought, "Oh no!  Now what is going to happen?"   My concern was unnecessary.  Luke not only responded to the priest's requests well, but became more interested in the Mass, and, I would guess, open to the Spirit speaking to him during the Mass.  

Joyfully Surprised

"You want to be an altar boy?!" I responded in an excited, surprised whisper to Luke when he quietly announced his desire to me during the Braga Mass.  For, prior to that Mass, when I had casually asked Luke once if he ever wanted to serve as an altar boy, he had immediately and emphatically responded, "No!"  He doesn't like to participate in Mass.  It is "boring".  It is "long".  It is a struggle for him.

I understood.  

As a "sensory kid" with attention challenges who was once on the path to an Autism spectrum diagnosis, I am thrilled that Luke makes it to - and through - Mass at all some weeks.  Regulating himself in the pew is challenge enough for Luke.  If he did not want to serve on the altar, fine.

Thus, I had never asked Luke about being an altar server again.

Yet, there was my boy bringing the possibility up to me.  

As Luke experienced Latin Mass and witnessed some of his homeschool peers serving on the altar during it, a desire kindled within him.  He voiced it, "Mom, I want to be an altar boy."

Who was I not to support him and the way the Spirit was calling him?

In the days that followed, I asked Luke several times if he had been serious about wanting to serve as an altar boy.  

Not only did Luke affirm his desire to me, but one day at Mass when our church distributed questionnaires asking what parishioners wants, needs and abilities might be, Luke took it upon himself to fill out his own form, writing on it that he wanted to serve as an altar boy.  In doing so, he shared his heart's desire publicly.


As Luke' s desire persisted, my joy and gratitude grew. 

Several times, I chatted with Luke about his choice to become an altar boy.  I hugged him, prayed with him, told him how delighted I was that he felt called to help our church in such a way and let him know that I would call the rectory to find out more about Altar Server training.  

And A Tad Concerned

Yet, while I was true to my words of support, excitement and gratitude, I admit, I also harbored concern.

Desire and ability are two different things.  Luke wanted to be an altar boy, but could he be?  

My question was not whether Luke be allowed to be an altar server. (I knew our parish would welcome him to try it out.)  Rather, it was whether Luke would be able to participate in Mass on the altar without causing distraction... or even disaster.

So it was that I spent time chatting with Luke about what an privilege it is to serve on the altar and how he would need to be extraordinarily respectful.  Focus on the Mass.  Sit, stand and kneel when he was supposed to.  Not complain.  Not escape to the bathroom.  Regulate himself and pray for help if he felt challenged...  Basically, in not so many words, reform his years of challenging Mass behavior.

Luke committed to doing so.

Bumps Before Becoming an Altar Boy

Commitment, though, does not always mean success.  

In the weeks between when Luke was called to be an altar server and when he actually becoming one, he made a concerted effort to "be good" at Mass.  Yet, he still struggled.  

His attention waned.  His senses processed in their own way.  His core strength flagged.  He sprawled prone on the pew.  He made bathroom trips.  He fooled around with his bother and sister.  He needed me to hold him.  He struggled to regulate himself and to participate with reverence.... and, yet, he continued to speak of his desire to serve.

So it was that I brought Luke to Altar Server training and, a week later, woke him for "the big day".

Unfortunately, the big day unfolded with a big meltdown at its start.

Although it was only a couple of weeks ago, I cannot remember what it was at breakfast that began to set Luke off.  I do recall, though, that his actions and reactions in a squabble with his siblings were not acceptable.

Then, having reset (I thought) from the small breakfast outburst, when it was time to get dressed for Mass, a full-on meltdown, reminiscent of the ones Luke used to have daily in years gone by, began.

Luke did not want to wear his button down shirt "because it itches" and his dress pants "hurt" and...  I asked Daddy to finish getting Jack and Nina ready and to get them in the car while I dealt with a 15-20 minute full-blown meltdown that I wasn't sure Luke would recover from in time to serve at Mass.

Praise God, though, somehow we did it.  Luke got dressed.  He reset.  And, we all got to Mass 10-15 minutes early so he could go to the sacristy to prepare.


Luke responded wonderfully to the altar server assigned to mentor him on his first day on the altar.  There were no more tears nor protests as she helped him pick out a robe, find a red cincture and put on a cross to wear.

Smiles and Tears

I cannot express the joy, gratitude and allayed apprehension I experienced as Luke served for the first time as an altar boy.

Our pastor Father John is awesome, as were the veteran altar servers that mentored Luke that day.  With their guidance, Luke's own desire and, of course, the work of the Holy Spirit, Luke not only made it all the way through Mass as an altar server, but he did so with a spirit of enthusiasm and focus that amazed me.  

To be honest, particularly after Luke's pre-Mass meltdown, I was not confident that he would succeed at staying on the altar for an entire Mass, much less honoring our Lord and the responsibilities of being an altar server.  Yet, Luke did.

It was a beautiful, incredible, affirming thing to witness.

Miracles Do Happen

So many times throughout the years, I have wondered whether taking Luke to Mass was even "worth it".  Of course, I always knew it was, but sometimes the challenge and frustrations of doing so were so great that doubt crept in.  

Frustration, anger, despair...  They all reared their ugly heads.

Then, that Sunday, all that negativity was extinguished.  During Mass, a tear or two of relief, release, affirmation and joy rolled down to the corners of my smile.  My son's eye caught mine.  Then, I looked up to the stain-glass window that depicted Jesus on the cross and Mary next to him.

I thought of all the suffering I had offered to Jesus while looking at the window over the years and all the words I had spoken to Our Lady asking her to help me be a better, gentler, more accepting and more trusting mom.  Then, I looked at my husband, who has stood by my side through every joy and challenge, at our other children, at the parishioners around me and back to the altar.  I was overwhelmed with thanksgiving.

After Mass, as Luke delighted in his final job of the day, gratitude, hope and all that is good beamed brightly.

Luke is an altar boy (and no fires were started!)  

If you asked me back when I wrote about how Luke at Mass engenders prayer, trust and reaching out if I'd ever be saying that, I might have said, "It would take a miracle."

Well, miracles happen. 

May the testimony of my son's call (and success!) to become an altar boy encourage you.  I would love to hear about your personal struggles and successes regarding children and church.

Please feel free to share about them in comment here or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.  If you leave a link to an idea, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board
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Friday, July 11, 2014

Favorite Spots: Bay Farm Conservation Area

If you're ever driving down Route 3 in Massachusetts and need to stretch your legs, I know a gorgeous place to do so:

A little ways off Exit 10 is one of our family's favorite spots:  Bay Farm Conservation Area.

I found the spot before I was married and have visited it countless times since alone, with my children, with my husband and with friends.  Each time I do, I find myself breathing in its beauty and then exhaling with grateful, re-charged peace.

My children, on the other hand, rarely marvel quietly at the natural beauty of the space.  Instead, they let it ignite their imaginations...  

The last time we went, Luke decided that the boulders along the ocean there would make a great spot for a fort.  All about Explorers, the first settlers to America and the Revolutionary War, he imagined himself on the lookout.

He used the trees to hide behind, defending himself from the enemy.

Nina joined him in a stick-sword dance up the boulders...

Meanwhile, Jack used his strength to climb up the boulders another way.

But, things were not all imaginary battles...  Lots of nature discovery unfolded, too.

As we made our way along a meadow trail to the ocean, Nina was a master critter spotter.  She called her brother over to inspect one of her finds.

Then, when we were building rock castles on the shoreline, Luke found a little something:

It was a tiny crab!

Jack found himself something tiny, too.

A mini-pool with snails in it.

Yes, from balancing along boards on the way to the ocean... 

... to running over small bridges with energetic delight...

... to spontaneously interviewing a man searching for precious metals with a detector, of course, igniting the children's interests, to seeing a wedding photographed... to imagining battles, making discoveries and hanging out on the rocks with fun finds like imagined arrowheads...

... the last time we went to Bay Farm Conservation Area was a literal field trip full of adventure and delight.

As we walked away, I knew we'd be back soon.

I was not wrong.  We have already planned a walk and dinner picnic with friends there this week!

Bay Farm Conservation Area is such a great spot for homeschool nature studies, family time, meeting friends, stretching legs and enjoying the great outdoors.  Plus, it's free. Enjoy it!

Location Details

  • To get to Bay farm Conservation Area: Take Exit 10 off Route 3 in Massachusetts and bear right onto Rt. 3A north. Turn right onto Parks Street. Bear left at the fork onto Loring Street. Continue on Loring Street past Bay Road. Parking will be less than a half mile up on the left.

  • A trail map of the paths through the field and grove to the rock ledge and beach can be found on the Duxbury town website.'

What are some of your favorite spots?

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Processing in Faith {Our First Eucharistic Procession Experience}

Oops!  When I went to write this week's Sunday post I realized that the one which I had planned for last week never actually went live.  Sorry!  I am remedying that now.

"Mommy, why are we doing this again?  Do we want the church to fall down?"  Luke asked as we began a Eucharistic Procession around the block of our church.

"No."  I laughed.  "We would never want the church to fall down.  And, besides, it just got new lights, so we certainly wouldn't want it to fall down now... We are doing this to share and celebrate our faith."

"Mommy, why do people keep zooming close by us, then slowing down and staring at us?"  Nina questioned as we moved further along the block.

"Well, they aren't used to seeing things like this.  They are curious about what we are doing..."  I began to explain.

"Really, Mommy, we are going to sing?  Outside the church!"  the children whispered in surprise when the small group of us that had gathered together stopped in the lot behind our church to sing.

"Yes."  I smiled and began to join in the song.

It was the children's first Eucharistic Procession and mine, too. 

One of our new parish priests had decided to offer Mass and a Eucharistic Procession in honor of the Solemnity the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and, I, in turn, had decided to participate with my children.

I am so glad that I did.

Participating might have meant complaints when I corralled the kids to go to Mass on a Friday evening; a few hushed, but firm tones and lots of hands-on redirection as I quelled the kids' not-always-reverent behaviors during Mass; extra hands to help one child who tripped and fell on the steps of the church in his excitement to join the procession; a watchful eye to keep another one on the sidewalk during the procession.... However, it also meant spending time praying in community; learning about a new-to-us faith tradition; opening up opportunities for the children and I to chat more about the Eucharist in the days that followed; and choosing to prioritize prayer.

And, let me tell you, if my children could make it to and through a Eucharistic Procession -- and benefit from it -- than most others could as well.  For my children are historically the kind that cause people to justly comment, "You have your hands full."  

Indeed, I do.  They are full of moments to offer up, but more so, full of blessings and opportunities.

Thank you to Father Mark for leading the Eucharistic Procession at our parish.  Thank you to fellow parishioners who consistently welcome my children and me, who get that my kids are kids (even if at times, "those" kids), and who often offer encouragement and fellowship.  And, of course, above all, thanks be to God for all the love we experience.

What traditions and expressions of faith might you venture out to explore with your children in the coming weeks?  Have you chosen to prioritize prayer in a new way lately?  I would love to hear more about it.

Please feel free to share about them in comment here or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.  If you leave a link to an idea, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

5 Picks for Exploring Rumpelstiltskin

{Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. If you click on them to make any purchase, we may get a small percentage of your sale at no extra cost to you. We thank you should you choose to support our family this way.} 

Last night, as I was collecting another laundry basketful of books that were due at the library, I found myself smiling at how one free program can inspire hours and hours of fun and learning.

Yes, Dreamtale Puppets and our local library did it again!  

This time, not with a gentle study of Jack and the Beanstalk, but with Rumpelstiltskin.

Now, I admit, Rumpelstiltskin is not my favorite fairytale.  For, in it, a girl promises her first born child to strange little man who does magic in order to save her life and, then, the girl marries the very man who had threatened to kill her -- a greedy king.  Indeed, the story seems filled with more vice than virtue.  

However, it is a "classic" and, thus, invites some exploration.

Explore we did.

First with an introduction to the plot through one picture book.

Then through viewing Dreamtale Puppets creative tabletop retelling of the story...

...and enjoying a post-performance opportunity to get up close and personal with all the puppets.

And, finally, through reading other versions of the story and coming up with our own dramatic play retellings.

The five picture books we chose to explore the story were:

Duffy and the Devil takes a popular play from 19th century Cornwall, which was inspired by the classic tale of Rumpelstiltskin, and puts it into picture book form with fun pen and wash illustrations and an ending that one does not expect (and that made my children laugh!)  True to the time period when this version of tale was dramatized throughout England, the Rumpelstiltskin-like character is portrayed as a devil and there are witches in the story as well.  However, there is very little that is scary about the book since the illustrations are so light-hearted.  I'd say the book is worth a gander for its unique twist if nothing else.

Gorgeous oil paintings in a medieval setting create a feast for children's (and adults' ) eyes in the Caldecott Honor Book Rumpelstiltskin.  The text of the books is well-written and stays true to the 1819 Grimm's version of this classic tale by having Rumpelstiltskin fly off on a wooden spoon at the end.  It was my favorite version of the book to read to my children.

Rumpelstiltskin: The Graphic Novel was Luke's favorite version of the classic tale, becausse it is written in comic-book style with bright, captivating (if trendy) illustrations and plenty of speech bubbles.  

I, personally, found the book less thrilling than he did.  However, I did appreciate the fact that the author tried to smooth out some of the less virtue-filled characteristics of the girl and the king in his retelling.  For, in this version of the classic tale, the girl promises to pay Rumpelstiltskin's price should she ever become queen, but does not know that price is her first-born, and the king keeps Rumpelstiltskin in his palace not due to greed, but due to love.  Plus, the girl shows determination and cleverness as she discovers Rumpelstiltskin's name in order to save her firstborn - a daughter.  The book also contains a glossary, a brief history of the classic tale, discussion questions and writing prompts, making it a good one for academic settings -- but only ones with children who do not frighten easily.  For, to be honest, the character of Rumpelstiltskin in this version is drawn to be quite ominous.

Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter gives a new, happily-ever-after twist to the old Rumpelstiltskin tale.  In it, the girl and the little odd man named Rumpelstiltskin escape the greedy king, get married and have a daughter, only to have the king capture their daughter years later, requiring her to appease his greedy ways.  The daughter, in turn, devises waya to help the poor people living in the king's countryside while also helping the king overcome his greed.  Of course, everyone (except maybe the king's guards with their gnashing teeth who are dismissed near the end of the story) lives happily ever after.

The illustrations in this version are delightful.  The storyline is fresh.  Overall, the plot redeems the vice-ridden classic tale with a strong, virtuou female character and good winning overcoming evil in the king.  I just wish there were not slang phrases in the text, such as "here's the deal" and "that jerk".

The Story of Rumpelstiltskin (Usborne First Stories):  This quick-and-easy book is a basic retelling of the classic tale with simple text and charming illustrations.  Like many other Usborne early readers, each page of The Story of Rumpelstiltskin has a short, large-font line of text at the top of the page, which young readers can likely attack on their own.  Then, it has a large, engaging illustration with two lines of smaller- (but still large-) font text below it.  These final two lines are slightly more challenging to read and can be read by a parent (or by a child who is progressing a bit more with reading).  The book is a quick and easy read with a cute, non-menacing looking Rumpelstiltskin.

Now, I know there are many, many more Rumpelstiltskin-inspired picture books out there. My children and I just moved onto different topics and themes before diving into them.  I'd love to hear about your favorites though in case we revisit this classic tale in the future.

What versions of Rumpelstiltskin do you like the best?  How do you approach classic tales with less-than-redeeming plots? 


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