Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Circle C Stepping Stones (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Have you ever read a book series and felt you were "missing" part of the characters' lives? Up until now, the Circle C stable of books featured protagonist Andi Carter at age six in the Circle C Beginnings series, and then jumped to Circle C Adventures, where she's twelve years old.  But what about when Andi went from learning to ride to riding the range? Susan K. Marlow and Kregel Publishing have begun to answer those questions with a brand new Circle C series, Circle C Stepping Stones, where nine-year-old Andi is finally old enough to ride both without her big brother's supervision AND with a saddle.  We received the first two books of this six-book series,  Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top.

Andi Carter is an old friend of ours. Two years ago, we reviewed Thick as Thieves, the first book in the Circle C Milestones series.  This set is for older readers (ages 9 to 12), but I loved Marlow's style of writing. Not only was it a well-paced read, but it was well written and age appropriate.  Finding books that are both are hard.  With Jude, books that are at his reading level tend to be more juvenile in content, while at the same time, higher-reading Damien isn't ready for the content of many harder books.  And, even when we do find a book that works for either boy, once he's finished, the hunt is on again.  I'm so excited to find a great series of books for kids in the 7- to 10-year-old reader range!

Chapters are a reasonable eight to ten pages long, while entire books are just over 100 pages.  Beautiful charcoal-style illustrations by Leslie Gammelgaard give concrete pictures to help anchor images in readers' minds, but they are spread out enough that they don't become the only way they "see" the action.

Now, I'm sure you're thinking, "Wait, Andi is a girl. Isn't this series for girls?" Nope.  Sure, it appeals to girls -- Celia grabbed the books and ran off before I had a chance to even say "These are for a review and I need them back!!" The protagonist is a 9-year-old horse-loving girl, so it is perfect for girls.  However, it's also a fantastic series for boys as well - Andi is a horse lover who happens to be a girl.  It's not a series "for girls" In the first two books, there's horseback riding, a boundary dispute, wild adventures (including a broken bone!), a circus, and a stolen (and returned) horse.   Damien has been reading them as well, and can't wait for the next day's reading.

Andi Saddles Up begins with birthday girl Andi, ready for her own saddle and the privilege of riding without supervision.  However, Andi learns that as much as she thinks she's now grown-up enough to do things her own way, she still needs to listen to adults guiding her -- they're not trying to be mean, but instead want to keep her safe.  She pays for her pride with a broken bone.

In Andi Under the Big Top, the circus has come to town.  There is lots to see, but most of all, Andi wants to see the bareback rider. She can't imagine anything better than being part of the circus.  However, after making a new friend and being exposed to the seedier side of the business, she finds that it's not quite all she thought it would be.

While I'd recommend the books for any child, Kregel Publications offers ways to transform these books into literature units for homeschool students.  We decided to make Andi Saddles Up into a literature study for Damien.

He's needed a little bit of help with this.  The questions aren't terribly difficult, but he's finding he does need to refer to the text.  This is new to him, so I've been showing him how to skim for what he needs.  I don't think the questions are "too hard" for him; it's just a new experience.  I think he'll be able to do the next one on his own.

Activities include the standard vocabulary and comprehension questions.  However, it also adds in other activities after these.  Lessons in creative writing, map skills, and an introduction to anatomy/science of broken bones.  The Andi Under the Big Top Activity Pages includes lessons that tie into that book -- math via calculating the cost of circus snacks, a biography of French trapeze artist Jules Leotard, etc.

They also include a "suggested calendar" - what to do on a single day, etc.  Damien found he preferred to do them in three-chapter chunks (i.e., Chapters 1-3, 4-6, etc.). He read (ok, devoured) the chapters one day, and completed the activities on the next.

Jude has read the books, but since he's already doing two literature studies, I didn't worry about him doing this one, too.  I also think that while it's perfect for a second or third grader being introduced to might be a little light on content for him (he's heading into fifth grade), but it's perfect for a second or third grader being introduced to literature studies.  If I were going to use these with Jude, I'd probably spring for the accompanying Lapbooks and use them as well.  They are a separate purchase, but very reasonably priced.  They are produced in conjunction with well-known lapbookers A Journey Through Learning. You can see samples of the lapbooks' content here.

Damien has fallen hard for Andi's adventures, and I'm excited to find a series for him to grow with. Celia was happy to find more about what has become Andi's backstory, which just whets her appetite for more of the older series books.  We're delighted to be visiting the Circle C ranch again!

For more about the Stepping Stones series, follow Kregel Publishing and/or Susan K. Marlow on social media, or click the banner below!

Twitter (Kregel Books):
Twitter (Susan K. Marlow):
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Andi Series {Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow Reviews}

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