They All Saw A Cat + Animal Eyesight Activity

They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel review + animal eyesight and perspective activity

“The cat walked through the world, with it’s whiskers, ears, and paws….”

Do you ever wonder how animals see us? What does their world look like? Is it the same as ours? Brendan Wenzel’s playful picture book explores this concept of animal perspective in They All Saw A Cat (public library). Follow a cat along on an adventure through the eyes of the animals it comes across, seeing the world in entirely different ways.

They All Saw A Cat

They All Saw A Cat - Dog perspective

They All Saw A Cat- fish perspective

Man. What a clever, creative picture book. It’s a rhythmic story with stunning illustrations of a cat who comes across a child, a dog, a fox, a fish, a flea, a bee… And many other animals the cat encounters, all of which see the cat differently. But, it also waxes a bit existential in it’s notion of how we perceive the world around us, how others creatures perceive that very same world, and also how we perceive ourselves. It also makes for a wonderful early reader book– Many of the lines and words are repetitive and each page has clear picture clues to help determine the new animal words. Perhaps this will be a Geisel book award contender for 2017? I’m just going to put that out there into the universe…

They All Saw A Cat - bee perspective

They All Saw A Cat - snake and skunk perspective 4

They All Saw A Cat outtakes

Photo shoot outtake: Zydeco and Soren Lorenson also throughly enjoyed this read, but they didn’t especially enjoy the part about the flea. Not really fans of fleas. Speaking of perspective, I really should start writing my cat picture book reviews from their perspective… They have OPINIONS. Maybe not? Too much weird cat lady for you?



Playing with persepective on the iPad

They All Saw A Cat prompts the question: “When you see a cat, what do you see?” and also leads to further thinking about how animals view us as well. After watching this video about animal eyesight, we played around with the Photobooth app on the iPad, which is also available on Mac computers, and used that as a tool to discuss perception. There are eight special effects modes that kids can have fun playing around with, snapping pictures of what they see. The thermal option is pretty nifty because that’s how some snakes actually “see” using heat.  If an iPad isn’t available at home, try your local school or public library to see if they have equipment to borrow. Or just take a piece of paper around and draw what you see and/or what an animal of your choice might see from their viewpoint. You can also have fun manipulating images with photo editing filters on the mobile device of your choice. Of course, the kids took pictures of the cats…

Playing with perspective after reading the book They All Saw A Cat

You can also download this They Saw A Cat Activity Kit for coloring pages, cat mask making, drawing prompt, and more!

For further information about animal eyesight including pictures demonstrating how certain animals see, check out these links:
How Animals See The World (video)
10 Examples How Animals See
This Is How Cats See The World



*Copy of book reviewed provided by the good folks at Chronicle Books!




Learning How To Read: A Beginning Reader Booklist

Learning How To Read A Beginning Reader Booklist - This list is broken up into 4 small lists to help build reading confidence in kids

Do you remember the first book you read by yourself? For those of you with older readers, what was the first book your child read independently? Venturing into the beginning reader section of a library or bookstore is overwhelming. Each publisher has their own reading level categories and don’t even get me started on all the different types of leveled reading assessments. How do you make time to skim each and every book while chasing kids around the library? This is my attempt at troubleshooting that experience of finding books for the just-started-learning-how-to-read reader. The below booklist is broken up into pre-reading stages of wordless books and one-word books, to build picture and print recognition, and then dives into books with only a few words to each page, working on word families and phonetic awareness, and the last list of books focuses on one sentence to two sentences per page, max.


wordless picture books for beginning readers

Did you know that one valuable pre-reading skill is to look at picture clues to interpret a story? Wordless picture books (books without words) are a powerful tool with emergent readers. These are a few of our favorites:

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley
Journey by Aaron Becker
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
Flotsom by David Wiesner
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu
Where’s Walrus by Stephen Savage
ABC Dream by Kim Krans
Shadow by Suzy Lee
Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash
The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
The Secret Box by Barbara Lehman
Chalk by Bill Thomson
Pool by Jihyeon Lee
Float by Daniel Miyares


picture books with one word

Let’s build some print recognition! This each book in this list only have one word that’s often times repeated throughout the entire story:

Hug by Jez Alborough
Moo by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Banana! by Ed Vere (this one actually has two words in it)
Ball by Mary Suliavan
Ah Ha! Jeff Mack
Look! by Jeff Mack


Books for Beginning Readers

These are books that only have a few words on each page. They work on phonics and word families and gaining a comfortability with comprehension. I found these titles to be the perfect just-started-learning-how-to-read books:

Home  Grown Books (start with The Play Book Pack!)
Flip-A-Word Books by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Yukiko Kido (This is the first series my daughter started reading by herself. Big fans of filp-a-word books!))
I See and See (I Like to Read) by Ted Lewin
Cat on the Mat (Cat on the Mat Books) by Brain Wildsmith
Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett
I Have a Garden (I Like to Read) by Bob Barner
Dinosaurs Don’t, Dinosaurs Do (I Like to Read) by Steve Bjorkman
Sid and Sam (My First I Can Read) by Nola Buck
Oh Cats! (My First I Can Read) by Nola Buck
I Like Stars by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Joan Paley
City Cats, Country Cats (Step-Into-Reading) by Barbara Shook Hazen, illustrated by Pam Paparone
Hot Dog (Step-Into-Reading) by Molly Coxe
See Me Run (I Like to Read series)
Wow, It’s Worm! (Brand New Readers) by Kathy Caple


books for kids learning to read

After the reader starts gaining some confidence reading books from the lists above, these titles bulk up with a few more words per page, a little bit longer sentences and some more challenging words, but continue the trend of repeat words and phrases with an overall relatively low word count. Many of these books are a part of a series, so if one seems to work out really well, check out the rest of the series:

Colorful Days (DK Rearders Learning to Read) by DK Publishing
Big Dog and Little Dog series (Green Light Readers) by Dav Pilkey
Whose Hat Is It? by Valeri Gorbachev
When Andy Met Sandy (An Andy & Sandy Book) by Tomie dePaola
The Chicken Said, “Cluck!” (I Can Read) by Judyann Ackermann Grant, illustrated by Sue Truesdell
Big Brown Bear (Green Light Readers) by David McPhail
Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories
Gossie (Gossie & Friends series) by Olivier Dunrea (series)
Cat the Cat Who is That? (Cat the Cat series) by Mo Willems
Rhyming Dust Bunnies Jan Thomas
What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig (series)  by Emma J. Virjan
I Spy A Funny Frog by Jean Marzollo
Hop, Bunny! (National Geographic Kids Pre-Reader) by Susan B. Neuman
Big Red Apple by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Judith Hoffman Corwin
Puppy Mudge Takes a Bath (Ready to Read) by Cynthia Rylant


These are some great additional resources to checkout for early literacy advice and book recommendations:
Reading Rockets
10 Things You Can Do to Raise a Reader
Geisel Book Awards
CLEL Bell Awards
What to Do When Your Child Hates Reading


Learning to read is an exciting time and each child learns at a different pace. Everyone has different opinions on when a child should learn to read. To me though, the most important ingredient is to just cultivate a love of reading early, regardless of age. Read stories aloud, visit the library, allow the child to choose the stories- Even if they find a dictionary appealing, look up a couple words together. Just like adults, children have reading preferences– Nonfiction, graphic novels, picture books, fairy tales… Find what they enjoy and let that be your guide. This list is just the tip of the iceberg of all the options available for emergent readers. Take your time, good luck, and happy reading!






This is My Home, This is My School

This Is My Home This Is My School by Jonathan Bean - A stunning autobiographical picture book about homeschool life

In the coming weeks, many eager, excited, and nervous kids will trade firefly nights and swimsuits for squeaky school hallways and backpacks. Back-to-School season is here, but for some, the new school year will start without ever leaving their home. A glimpse of life as part of a homeschool family is illuminated in a heartwarming, autobiographically inspired picture book, This Is My Home, This Is My School by Jonathan Bean (public library). In a show-and-tell manner, a young, homeschooled boy walks the reader through the dual purpose of his family’s home, his family’s dynamic, and the world around him. Each day is tightly intertwined with hours of love, labor, and learning- His mom and dad are also his teachers, his siblings are his classmates, similar to a school bus, their family van takes them on field trips, read-aloud at bedtime is an English lesson, and when the teacher is having a rough day, she sometimes has to phone in for a substitute.

This Is My Home, This Is My School 1

This Is My Home, This Is My School by Jonathan Bean

This Is My Home This Is My School 3

This Is My Home This Is My School 4 The family of six’s rhythms and adventures as homeschooling homesteaders is a dreamy, organized chaos. Four kids running around, an energetic dog, chickens, a cat, a bunny, the house is  cluttered with projects– A lived in space, full of energy and a representation that learning happens everywhere and at anytime. This is the essence of homeschooling that Jonathan Bean effortlessly captures in this book.

This Is My Home This Is My School 6

This Is My Home This Is My School 7

Jonathan Bean This Is My Home This Is My School - Homeschool autobiography

Visit the library or your local bookstore and there are dozens and dozens of “back-to-school” picture books, but there are only a couple of picture books that feature homeschoolers.  2 million families homeschool in the USA, and with homeschooling on the rise, these children now have a book that relates to their own experience. As a homeschool parent, I deeply appreciate the telling from Jonathan Bean’s own viewpoint and especially his author’s note and family photos in the back of the book. You can tell just in the way the story is written and in his note that he looks back fondly at his time home with his family.  Our family’s own decision to homeschool our oldest child was a difficult one. We didn’t know the first thing about how the decision to homeschool would change the dynamic of our family and our lives, but the depiction of  Jonathan Bean’s own positive experience helped me imagine what life as a homeschooling family could be like.  My family doesn’t live on a picturesque homestead like Jonathan Bean’s (which you can read more about in his fantastic picture book, Building Our Home), but the approach is similar.


This Is Our Home, This Is Our School: A Look Inside Our Homeschool Life

In the same fashion of This Is My Home, This Is My School, I thought I’d share our homeschool “classrooms” and daily rhythms. As I mentioned already, this book helped me as a parent to visualize what life as a homeschooler was like before we decided to take the leap into life as a homeschool family. Here’s a peek inside our world.

This is our home, this is our school! We learn about a variety of subjects….




homeschool number line jumping






nature kids

Earth Sciences


cardboard rocket ship






art room







Horticulture & Livestock


shadow puppets



yoga kid



ku museum of natural history



kansas history



Not Pictured: Piles and piles of laundry, piles and piles of library books, playing with neighborhood friends, piles and piles of dirty dishes, extracurricular activities, early morning snuggles, chores, more laundry, and a whole lot of love.

If you homeschool or are thinking about homeschooling, be sure to check out This Is My Home, This Is My School. If you haven any questions about our homeschooling rhythms, I’ll do my best to answer your questions. I’m new to homeschooling myself, so if you have any words of wisdom going into the new academic year, please share!

Good luck to all students and parents going into a new school year!





*Copy of book reviewed provided by the good folks at Farrar, Straus & Grioux




Rain Fish: Rainy Day Play + Repurposed Art

In this rhyming adventure of debris that comes out to play on a rainy day, RAIN FISH by Lois Elhert is a lively story meshing art and nature

On a rainy day, whether it be after a night of heavy thunderstorms or during a lingering drizzle, it’s the perfect time to spot rain fish at play. In this rhyming adventure of debris that can be spotted on rainy days, RAIN FISH by Lois Elhert (public library) is a lively story meshing art and nature. Illustrated in Ehlert’s trademark collage style, Rain Fish prompts readers to take notice of “rain fish” swimming around their neighborhood, catch them, and repurpose them into something of their own imagination.

Rain Fish inside spread

Rain Fish

With each full page spread, discards and debris found by Ehlert transform into aquatic animal shapes swimming through the book and the playful text and bright colors are stimulating to even the littlest of readers. Now I know I highlight Lois Ehlerts books here on SfCT all the time, but I mean come on– Lois Ehlert! Her books are always inviting, creative, and accessible to kids. I didn’t even have to prompt my own children to go outside after reading Rain Fish. After our first time reading the books, they both turned to me and excitedly said, “Let’s go look for RAIN FISH!”


Looking For + Creating Rain Fish Collages

Art and nature collide making Rain Fish out of debris found after a rainstorm- A fun rainy day project for kids of all ages

Inspired by Lois Ehlrt’s new picture book, Rain Fish, debris found in alleyways, sidewalks, or at the park can be transformed into art supplies for fish collages. Help keep your town clean by picking up trash washed away by the rain and give it a new life.

Found “art supplies” (i.e. trash, leaves, feathers, etc. found outside after a rainstorm)
Colorful construction paper or cardstock

After a heavy thunderstorm or even during a light rain shower, take a walk to look for “art supplies”. These art supplies could be discards and debris found in a park, on a beach, or on your neighborhood sidewalk.

Looking for Rain Fish, a rainy day activity that promts kids to use their imagination and repurpose litter

Looking for Rain Fish inspired by the picture by Lois Elhert

trash found floating in the streets after a rainstorm

We found a ton of trash and objects to work with taking merely one loop around our block. Wash found debris in warm, soapy water before using, get out some glue and paper, and get your art on! I put some glue in small containers with paintbrushes for easy use for my 2-year-old. She has a hard time using the squeeze bottles, and paintbrushes offer more control.

Rainy day craft for kids-- Making Rain fish

Creating art out of debris inspired by Lois Ehlert's Rain Fish

Rain Fish kid art

Paper items such as tissue or paper bags can be molded while wet and maintain their shape once dry. Glue items to paper to create colorful, mixed media collages.

Rain Fish project

Rain Fish art

Art and nature collide making Rain Fish out of debris found after a rainstorm- A fun rainy day project for kids

We were inspired to make underwater scenes like in the story, but you can turn your newly found art supplies into anything your heart desires. When rain is forecasted, consider playing outside, exercise creativity, and cleaning up your neighborhood by taking a trip rain fishing.



* Source of inside Rain Fish page images courtesy of Simon & Schuster

**Source of book reviewed was borrowed from our local library



Wild Things in Summer

june morning

Turtle whisperer

my wildflower

Catalpa tree

Fallen Catalpa flowers

Spring's last hurrah

Hopper hello

Summer Solstice Fairy Ring

Summer Solstice snuggles

June journaling

black rasperies off the vine

Dreamy Kansas skies

Leaf printing

Eucalyptus lane

Beach combing

Sneaky sideling

Mountain magic

Desert views


As quickly as it came, summer is already on the decrescendo. The heat broke the last week of July, the days are shorter, and the wild sunflowers are reaching up to the Kansas blue sky ready to burst. I missed a wild things post in June, so I combined June and July’s nature adventures together. The end of our summer was spent away from our Lawrence home in southern California for my mom’s wedding. It was a busy trip, but we were able to escape for some leisure time on the beach and in the desert. I’ve been on a Mary Oliver binge for several months now. Somedays I write a line of hers down and keep it in my pocket. This one I’ve been keeping by close to me a lot lately: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

First light on the prairie
Catalpa trees in full bloom
Creek mudslides
Fields of firefly twinkling
The fragrant smell of desert evenings
Tide pooling
Sea salt smiles
Swooping bats at twilight
The last hurrah of summer nights

Our yesterdays as amateur naturalists. For new adventures follow along on Instagram.