Book Review: The Great Molasses Flood

The Great Molasses Flood

Non-fiction kids’ books are great.

One of Charlesbridge Publishing’s newest books, The Great Molasses Flood is on a particularly unique topic [what, you weren’t planning an entire unit study around the Great Molasses Flood of 1919?] but would be great to integrate into broader studies.

The Great Molasses Flood is just interesting, period. On January 15, 1919, a tank of molasses exploded, sending shards of metal flying and releasing a 40-foot wave of dark, flowing molasses that collapsed buildings and coated the North End of Boston. Kops uses a number of personal stories in telling her story; find yourself in the shoes of poor Mrs. O’Brien, who opened a door to find her entire building moved down the street, among those helping with the sticky, long, clean-up, or telling your testimony along with other survivors.

Falling squarely in the intersection between the “weird disasters” category, the “this-is-an-example-of-how-historical-research-is-done” category, and the “early modern period of history” category, Deborah Kops uses primary documents, archival photos, and a narrative re-telling that will put you right in the midst of the action. Set into the broader early-modern context of 1919, students will find it interesting how the effects of broader events they’ve read about elsewhere—World War I, early waves of immigration, women’s suffrage, the struggle over improved regulation, prohibition, and the anarchist movement—played out in the face of one disaster. It’s one thing to read about how and why events happened, and their direct aftermath. It’s quite another to see the unique, localized ways in which they affected ordinary people. With the scent of molasses only fading from Boston in the mid-1990s, Kops’ Great Molasses Flood presents a contextual, localized history that is brought into the present day.

102 indexed pages, library-reinforced hardcover with dust jacket. Sepia-toned pages and archival photographs. Ages 9-12.

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Review: Brain Food

You hear of people homeschooling because, in part, their kids fidget.
Their kids like to move while they learn, problems ensue in the classroom, et cetera et cetera et cetera.
It’s a powerful thing.

Like many others, I often feel like I have to move to think. I pace, I walk, I study better on a treadmill than sitting on a couch.

Particularly for kinesthetic learners,  such movement actually can help with thinking. But while large-area activities work, Brain Food can make getting all that fidgetiness out easier. Brain Food is that link between energy and body, channeling movement, promoting the free flow of ideas…all while sitting. It’s amazing. I got it over two weeks ago now, and seriously cannot put this stuff down.

It’s non-sticky and taffy-like; a bit firm until you warm it up, and then it swirls and loops in SUCH a tactilely-pleasing manner. It’s feels 99% oil-free on my hands too…I still wash after I’ve put it away, but it’s not so much that I avoid touching things (all hand-cream moisturizers, I’m looking at you).

It’s moldable for a moment, but won’t stay, since it doesn’t harden—EVEN if you leave it out of its tin-home. So basically, don’t expect to make a dinosaur or a tree. I’ve tried. It just sort of slumps over and resumes its primordial globular state. But, making sculptures isn’t its intention, so when I’m sitting and thinking while smooshing and pulling at my lump of Brain Food…it’s doing exactly what it should. Helping me to think productively.

And having fun charging it up with light and watching it glow in the dark. Which…is just cool.

Brain Food comes in 7 different colors, 1 of which glows in the dark. Each tin is currently $8.99 at View “Product Close-Up” for a picture of each color.
Non-toxic. Keep from clothes.

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Homeschool Savings: Mid-April Edition

It’s mid-April.
MID. April.

While entirely unsure at how we’re here already, that we have certainly arrived at this point in the month means that we have plenty of sales
—lovely, budget-saving, homeschool sales—
going on right now.


Alpha Omega is 20% off the retail price in April.



The Key To…(Algebra, Measurement, etc.) Math Workbooks from Key Curriculum Press
are also 20% off until April 30.


The Homeschool Deal of the Week for April 16th-April 23rd is 30% off of Spectrum Math.


Want even more bargains?
Head over to


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Review: Pick Up Your Pen


Pick Up Your Pen, The Art of Handwriting   -              By: Monica Dengo

I LOVE this.
LOVE it.

A visual treat that I would have adored as a homeschooling kid (and, as I still remain a rather font-obsessed person, am head over heels for even now), Monica Dengo’s Pick Up Your Pen is an inspiring guide to Italic Handwriting that’s beautiful, whimsical, and about as far from a boring handwriting book as you can possibly get.

Each cream-colored page has color on it—beautiful, rich, paint-and-marker color. The letters loop and flow, stand on top of each other, and are stacked up alongside the guidelines. These are pages that are just begging to be written in, doodled in—a real-life inspiration to tap into way we unconsciously scribble in the margins.

The two-page spreads focus on the same letter in either upper or lower-case. The left-hand page features colorful, whimsically drawn letters on a blank, unlined page that encourages experimentation; the right-hand page features italic instruction with model letters to copy and lines to practice on. Even the numbers at the bottom of the page are put to use, with directional arrows showing how to correctly form them. This isn’t a rigorous curriculum that provides instruction like a multi-volume, standard handwriting series would—there are no full words or sentences—but as a supplement, art book, “finished product,” or a different take on a subject, this is a fabulous workbook.

In a world dominated by keyboards and computers, inspire kids to see the creativity, line, and movement in the art of handwriting once again! 107 cream-colored, book-esque pages, softcover. 11.75” long, 8.25” high.

Currently $11.99 (20% off the retail price) at

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Deal of the Week: Pumpkin Seed Press

There’s always at least two homeschool sales going on at–if not more!

Our current deal of the week (currently running Monday-to-Monday) is Pumpkin Seed Press, which publishes encouraging CDs for homeschooling moms & families, as well as the bestselling Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood.

Save 25% off the retail price until next Monday, January 30th, at midnight, EST.


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Book Review: His Name was Raoul Wallenberg

Discover the story of World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg in Houghton-Mifflin’s “His Name was Raoul Wallenberg.” Risking his life throughout the war, saving thousands of Jews, he would disappear only days after liberation; his ultimate fate is a mystery.

This has to be one of the most unusually structured children’s biographies I’ve come across, but the more I re-read, the more I like it. In a style slightly reminiscent of Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust, author Louise Borden manages to pull out all the dates and places-with-umlauts of a conventional biography, spin it around, and return prose in free verse form. I felt it matched the rhythm of the story she was telling, provided a way to not overwhelm young readers with huge blocks of text, and still left plenty of pages for the many photographs she integrates (view the sample pages to see if it’s a style your child would like, or become distracted by).

Despite movies about him, university awards named after him, and memorials in most major cities, Raoul Wallenberg doesn’t have anywhere near the same name-recognition as other WWII heroes. His story takes place during the latter half of the war in Hungary, originally a German ally and then occupied by Germany—putting its thousands of Jewish residents in danger.

Sent to Hungary specifically to help the Jews, the plan Raoul and others came up with is nothing short of brilliant. They decided to create a unique document, merging an official letter of Swedish protection that had previously worked getting Jews across the border with a passport; they called it a “Schutzpass,” a combination of protection and passport.

He bought and rented our thirty-two apartment buildings, each with a sign reading “This house is protected by the Royal Swedish Government.” When quotas were put in place, he used schutzpass numbers for entire families; when the Nazis took people anyways, he set up his own checkpoints ahead of them, pulling person after person off the trains. He drove alongside death marches with a typewriter to print out new letters of protection on the go. He climbed on top of a train car to hand in schutzpasse through the windows. This is a story of inspiring, over-the-top courage.

And finally, liberation came. Russian soldiers came in as retreating Germans blew up bridges behind them. Raoul Wallenberg went to meet with the top generals in order to ensure that the ghetto would be protected…and was never seen again.

The story of his rescue efforts is thrilling enough, but the mystery of his fate will put this into an entire other class for children. Detailing the stories, evidences, hear-say and scraps of evidence, Louise Borden integrates interviews with family members with the multiple theories of his fate.

With all the “true-story” thrills, His Name was Raoul Wallenberg is a great World War II supplemental reader. It doesn’t dive into the standard details of other middle school books on the holocaust, and really with the repetition of material that those books offer, it shouldn’t have to. What it may need—or inspire—is more research into how neutral countries operated during the War, and perhaps about Hungary’s role in particular, neither of which is front-and-center in youth books. 135 pages, hardcover with dust jacket. Middle School.

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Alpha Omega Sale–hours left!

Alpha Omega Sale


Did you mark your calendars? Our one-day-only Alpha Omega Sale is going on until midnight, EST, today! Whether you’re curriculum-shopping after just beginning to homeschool at the year’s half-way point, want to try something new for the 2nd half of the year, or are grabbing something you already know you want for next year, now’s the perfect time to pick up your Alpha Omega order!

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Alpha Omega Spring Sale!


The Alpha Omega Spring Sale is on! For the entire month of April, save 20% off the retail price on Horizons (check out their new Pre-Algebra), Switched-On Schoolhouse, Lifepac, and Weaver.

Also, don’t forget to check out the Deal of the Week: 15% off the retail price of ACSI’s Science & Math curriculum until April 8th.

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Canon Press Sale & Transcript Help


Save 22% off the retail price of Canon Press’ Latin and Logic Resources until Jan. 21st.

And for the many of you feverishly working towards getting your child’s application packet ready for the college deadlines, check out our article of the week by Janice Campbell: 

Help! I Need a High School Transcript . . . Tomorrow!

Even if you don’t need it the next day (and hopefully, you don’t), it’s a quick, helpful guide to what things you should include in your student’s high school transcript. I remember the intense amount of application-stress much more vividly than I’d like to (and that was only from the “student” perspective…), and easing even just one aspect of that process can be a tremendous relief!

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Latin on Sale!

January is the month to stock up on your Classical Education supplies!

The Homeschool Deal of the Week is 22% off the retail price of Memoria Press’ Latin Resources–Prima Latina, Latina Christiania, First Form Latin…

First Form Latin: Kit plus Pronunciation CD, Flashcards and DVD's

And then, all of Classical Academic Press is now 15% off the retail price throughout January!

Never really learning Latin isn’t exactly a regret of mine, but rather a sort of a wistful thought. We tried–we really tried–but back when I was being homeschooled, there certainly wasn’t a plethora of Latin-materials like there are now! I tried to make it through a pretty thick textbook, but without any sort of additional aid it didn’t exactly produce spectacular results.

So we supplemented with lots of root study–I went through the fantastic Vocabulary from Classical Roots and another book or two instead (which was still SO incredibly helpful)…but learning Latin still on my list for the far-off-day when I have more free time!

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