Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Learning on a Hike

We haven't done a lot of formal nature studies over the years, but I'm always amazed at the things we learn just by being observant. Recently my family went on an afternoon hike while we were out camping. We didn't take along nature journals to make notes and drawings, but I did take the camera. I snapped pictures of the things we wondered about.I thought the yellow violets were so sweet. Later I looked them up in a wildflower book and discovered that there actually 5 different kinds of yellow violets in the western United States, and I determined that this particular kind is the Stream Violet.
My daughter caught a little frog along a stream. Or is it a toad? Yeah, I think it's a toad. We learned about the difference between frogs and toads earlier this year, but we should probably look it up again just to refresh our memories.
What kind of bird dropped this feather? I have no idea! Maybe we need a bird book, too. The feather almost looks polka-dotted.
Then we picked up this pretty piece of quartz. I recognized it... but my daughter is sure we need a rock book, too!
What kind of animal left this behind? Elk? Moose? Don't tell me we need a poop book! Oh, wait. We already have one! Really, we do! I'll tell you about it some other time. (I just can't find it right now, which is why I'm not sure whether it's elk or moose.)
Look close! Can you see the gold flakes in the stream? We wondered if it was real gold. Perhaps we ought to research that, too!

Isn't learning fun?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Interview with Mat Halverson

This week I'm interviewing Mat Halverson, author of the Scripture Sleuth mystery books for kids. I first met Mat at a homeschool convention several years ago. At that time he had 3 books out, and we bought them for read-alouds. My kids were hooked, so we've added the next 2 to our collection as they have been released. When I saw Mat at the Christian Heritage conference in April, I asked if I could interview him for my blog. He graciously agreed. Here are the questions I asked him, along with his answers.

Hi, Mat. My family has really enjoyed your Scripture Sleuth books about Concord Cunningham. They remind me of the Encyclopedia Brown books I read when I was a kid, with each chapter a short mystery that the reader has the opportunity to solve before looking up the solution in the back of the book. It seems to be a format that kids love. How did you come up with that idea?

Hi, Karla. First of all, thank you for taking the time to interview me on your blog. When I was a kid, I loved Encyclopedia Brown, too. It was so much fun to read a short mystery and then try to solve it myself. When I started writing, I wanted to write mysteries with a similar structure, but I also wanted to connect kids to the Bible. I credit God for giving me the idea to write short mysteries that kids would solve by looking up clues in their own Bibles.

Could you tell us more about how the books work?

Each chapter is a fun mystery, so there are 12 separate mysteries in every book. The mysteries are lighthearted adventures, and they average about 5-7 pages each. At the end of each chapter's mystery, readers aren't given the solution. Instead, they're given a Bible verse to look up in their own Bibles. When they look up that verse, they find the final clue that they need to solve the case. After they they think they've solved the mystery, they can check their answers in the solution section at the back of each book. By the way, the reading level of the books is ages 8-12.

My daughter insists she can't read a Scripture Sleuth book without her Bible. Even when she has the answer figured out, she will look up the scripture hint before she reads the solution to see if she's right. And some of the scriptures are pretty obscure! How did you find them?

I'm so pleased to hear about your daughter. That's really my whole reason for writing these books--to excited kids about looking up Bible verses. As for finding verses and turning them into clues, that's the most difficult part of writing the Scripture Sleuth books. I don't have a secret formula; I just sit down with my Bible and start searching. Sometimes one verse will lead me to another. And sometimes I can search for hours and not come up with anything. And, of course, I use a concordance all the time, just like the main character in the books. The mysteries are in a current-day setting, and it's been a wonderful experience for me to connect a huge assortment of verses to everyday situations. My hope is that kids will see how God's Word is still completely relevant today.

What other kind of lessons would you say these books teach?

That's a great question because the stories themselves are not designed to teach huge moral lessons. They're just good, clean fun. The point of the series is motivating kids to use their Bibles to solve problems. The main character (kid detective Concord Cunningham) is very respectful to adults, and he completely trusts in God's Word. So, he demonstrates good qualities. But, again, the books are designed to be fun and are definitely not preachy.

There are 5 books so far... a total of 60 "cases"! Wow! I'm impressed that you've been able to come up with so many. And I understand there are more in the works. When will the 6th book be out?

I'm writing the 6th book now, and I hope to have it finished within a year. After I submit it to the publisher, it will take about 6-12 months for it to be released. So, realistically, the next book won't be out before late 2010 or early 2011.

We've purchased our books directly from you at homeschool conventions. Where else can people buy them?

You can purchase the books on my website: Once you're there, you can either buy the books directly from me, or link to other places that sell them. If you buy them from me, I'd be happy to autograph them.

Thanks so much for interviewing me about my books, Karla. I look forward to seeing you at the next homeschool convention!

Thank you, Mat, for being my guest today!

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