They’re Recycling Aliens, Sequel to Ants in Space by G J Griffiths. Book Review.

The first thing that struck me about this book was the amazing illustrations. The second thing was that the author began the story by writing in the passive verb tense. Action stories, and I assume this is one, should always be written using active verbs. You want the reader to feel that the story is alive and present. This continues throughout the book and noticeably slows the pace.

The gist of the story is that ant sized aliens have come to earth to harvest Teflon from landfill site for use on their home planet. The children decide to join them for an adventure. They are shrunk down to ant size and flow into the home planet. Unfortunately, it is under attack. Children who like aliens, Star Wars, Minecraft, and spacecrafts will enjoy this story.

The writing is charming albeit a little wordy. His description of the toddler coloring is both humorous and endearing. The book is mostly text with the occasional full-page colored illustration. I found it a little confusing to see the illustrations before I had read the relevant text and would recommend that several of the pictures be moved to later pages.

I love that fact that the little girl, dressed as the Princess, introduces the concept of kindness as an antidote to war. Her speech is inspiring and wise.  She also spoke about caring for the planet instead of destroying it and moving on. (Ironic since earthlings are determined to destroy earth.)

The plot is suited to children around eight-years-old but the vocabulary and scientific concepts are much higher. This book might be best shared by a parent with his or her child.

I was given a free e-book copy in exchange for honest review.

Buy link They’re Recycling Aliens: Return to Antanesta (Kweezy Caploza Tales Book 2)

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

1 2 3 Versus A B C by Mike Boldt.

 

This silly book begins with the number one saying, “Hello! I’m so glad you chose to read this book about numbers!” Traveling in the other direction, the capital A says, “Hi! I’m so happy you chose to read this book about letters.”

What begins with a friendly disagreement quickly draws in the entire alphabet and the numbers up to 26 as well as an alligator, two bears, three cars, four dinosaurs, etc. (There is no explanation for why the alligator is wearing a cowboy hat, thick black rimmed glasses, a striped tie, and carrying a briefcase.) The book gets zanier when the named animals interact with each other. Monkeys juggle oranges and ties while lions try to put together a jigsaw puzzle assisted by koala bears. Wolves playing violins ride unicycles. It is a fast paced book with expressive illustrations.

At the end, there is a double page spread of the numbers from 1 to 26 and the letters from A to Z with the occasional character tucked in between. The letter A and the number one shake hands and agree to call it a day. They walk off arm in arm. They stop, mouths agape, when a raspberry looking blob says, “Umm… Hello? I’m a little lost. I’m supposed to be in a book about colors.”

What a great jumping off point for a child or a class to make their own book.

Children between the ages of two and four often confuse numbers and letters. If they are ready, this book would help them to understand that numbers and letters serve different purposes. After reading through the book, it would be best to go back and focus on the letters second time. Then on the third read through, focus on the numbers.

Counting and alphabetizing are ways we bring order to our world. Basically, they are a type of categorization. Show your child how numbers and letters can help them organize.

You can carry this through into sorting items in the house, first by number, then by beginning letter, and lastly by color. Buttons are great for this. I recommend you do one type of sorting per day.

Here are some examples.

 

Expand into:

There’s more:

weight

texture

sound when dropped into a can

float or sink

stackable or not

expensive or cheap

used (recycled) or unused (new)

Can you spin it like a top?

Can you play tiddlywinks or pogs with it?

It’s only as limited as your imagination.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

R is for Race: A Stock Car Alphabet by Brad Herzog. Illustrated by Jane Gilltrap Bready. Book Review.

If you have a reluctant reader in your house who enjoys stock-car racing, this is the book for him or her. The alphabet is simply a way to organize the material and not the main feature of this text. Each page has a full-page illustration or a double spread featuring something to do with modern or historical stock-car racing. There is a short four-line rhyme accompanying each letter. But, the most additional information is found in a text bar down the side.

For example, “A is early auto races held so long ago. What was so speedy then now seems rather slow.” The text box accompanying this page talks about the first auto race in America taking place in Illinois on Thanksgiving Day in 1895. It compares it to the speed of cars 14 years later. It adds more about A is for Bobby Allison who won the Daytona 500 three times.

The illustrations are realistic and detailed. Beady has had much experience with cars and racing and this shows in her careful and engaging work. Illustrations capture various viewpoints from inside the actual vehicle to the crew pit to the spectators.

The information in the text bars reveals tidbits about the need of stock-cars from tachometers to tires. It explains the rules, talks about famous racers like Dale Earnhardt, examines the cars, mentions several important racing venues, and explores the evolution of the sport.

This book is sure to become a favorite of stock-car young fans.

Click on the covers to buy the books or for more information.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

  

Author G.A. Whitmore Three Random Questions Interview

 

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25% of the proceeds from the sale of A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale are donated to a rescue dog organization.

G.A. Whitmore’s passion for writing and her love of dogs come together in her series The Rescue Dog Tales. The first book in the series, A Place to Call Home is based on the true story of Toby, an abused dog she adopted from the Connecticut Humane Society. She works and lives in Connecticut.  Her current day job in health care management can be stressful, and her rescue dog, Daisy, is an expert at calming her down and making her laugh every day.

Bonnie Ferrante: Tell us a little about yourself.

G.A. Whitmore: I love having her at my feet while I’m writing.  I also need to have a window to look out of when I write, so my desk is positioned so that I face the window in my study. I can stare out into the world that I am trying to keep at bay while I mull over what word to use, or imagine how one of my characters will react in a certain situation.

Ferrante:  Your book, A Place to Call Home, is based on a true story. Toby is a dog you adopted from the Humane Society. He’d been severely abused. Would you recommend that other people follow in your footsteps? 

Whitmore: Yes, of course. If you have room in your home and heart for a dog, visit your local animal shelter. Usually, the staff members know their animals well and can offer good advice on choosing one that will be right for you and your family. Sometimes, abused animals need more attention, but most shelters do not put animals up for adoption until they are socialized and ready for a new home.

Toby was seven months old when I first saw him at the Connecticut Humane Society. He had been physically abused and was severely traumatized. His backstory, as told to me by the woman who rescued him, fascinated and horrified me at the same time. He was found in northern California in a box in a dumpster with a white female puppy, presumably his sister. They were discovered by a young couple travelling back to Los Angeles, who took the puppies home with them. The local vet, upon examining the dogs, thought they might be part wolf. Toby ultimately ended up in Connecticut after relatives of the couple, who had stopped by to visit while on a cross-country driving trip, decided to adopt the puppies.

I couldn’t stop wondering how and why Toby and his sister ended up in a dumpster in a box, and were they really part wolf? And more importantly, what would drive someone to abuse a defenseless puppy? My musings turned into a story. The story turned into a book.

The impetus to finish writing the book came from my realization that Toby’s story could help raise awareness of the plight of abused and abandoned dogs. When A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale was published earlier this year, I decided to donate part of the proceeds from the sale each book to a rescue organization in honor of Toby and all rescue dogs in need of a place to call home.

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Click here to buy A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale

Ferrante: That’s wonderful. What advice would you give someone considering adopting an abused pet?

Whitmore: Be sure you are ready and willing to put in the time for your animal to get to know you and your family and to give it the attention and love it needs and deserves. Visit animal shelters and talk to the staff members, most of whom know their animals and will be happy to introduce you to those they think would fit your family and home. Ask questions about the pet’s background, habits, exercise abilities…anything you would want to know about a new family member. That is what this animal will be, after all, so do not be shy about asking.  The staff may not know every answer, but whatever information you receive will help you and your pet get to know each other better.

Ferrante: You have other pets as well. Are any of them rescued animals?

Whitmore: Yes, I have a cat who I rescued, and I have rescued four dogs since Toby. I will always have rescued animals in my home. I cannot imagine my home without them!

Ferrante: What kind of response have you had from children who have read your book?

 Whitmore: They love Toby and his kind and adventurous spirit, and they love the idea of animals talking to each other.  But they also wonder how some people can be so mean to animals. Even the adults who read this book (and there are nearly as many of them as child readers) say they are saddened by that part of the true story.  Most of the children say they cannot wait for the next book in my series.

Ferrante: Yes, it is unfathomable to me that people do these things to animals. Do you have another book in the works? 

Whitmore: I am currently writing the second book in my series, The Rescue Dog Tales, A Place to Belong: Kadee’s Tale.  It was inspired by an article I read in a Reader’s Digest several years ago while sitting in my doctor’s waiting room. (Yes, I am guilty of tearing it out and taking it with me.) Kadee is a mixed breed border collie who is rescued from a dog fight and finds herself part of a training program that pairs juveniles who get in trouble with rescue dogs. The lead human character, Sam, is a good girl who gets into some trouble, ends up at a ranch for juvenile offenders, and is ultimately accepted into the rescue dog-training program. As you might guess, she is paired up with Kadee and the two of them become inseparable.

three random questions

Ferrante: If any one of the national holidays had to be celebrated twice a year, six months apart, which one would you want it to be?

Whitmore: Thanksgiving, although I’m a vegetarian and do not eat turkey (or tofurkey, either), because I have so much to be grateful for and because I love pumpkin pie.

What is not a national holiday, but I wish it were, is Rescued Animals Day.  I would like to see shelters have open houses on that day and offer incentives to suitable people to adopt one of their shelter animals. Maybe someone you know will start the movement to make that happen!

Ferrante: Sounds like a great idea. Maybe one of the children who read your book will lead the way.

 If you were on an African safari, what would you absolutely have to see for your trip to be complete?

Whitmore: Like most people, I am fascinated by elephants, so seeing them up close and free would be amazing. But I also love the big cats…and the wild dogs…and the graceful giraffes…and the tiny meerkats…and….as you can tell, I would be one of those folks jumping around in her seat to see and photograph every wild thing!

Ferrante: If you had to choose your own epitaph of eight words or fewer (besides name and dates), what would it say?

Whitmore: She loved animals, and they loved her, too.

Ferrante: That’s beautiful. What a wonderful way to be remembered. Thank you for spending time with me today. I look forward to reading your book.  And thank you for being a refuge for unfortunate animals.

Read the book review here.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A Place to Call Home, Toby’s Tale by G. A. Whitmore. The Rescue Dog Tales. Book Review.

This story is told in first person from the dog, Toby’s, point of view. All the animals in the novel converse with each other much like those in Charlottes’ Web.

We follow the life of Toby, beginning with his grandparents. Toby is a pure white husky who has Wolf blood in him. Unfortunately, he is born to a breeder who plans on killing Toby and his sister because their unusual color will ruin his business. What follows is a repeatedly heartbreaking story. But, if you can push through to the end, Toby finally has the loving home he deserves.

This would be a terrific book for kids who love animals and dogs. It’s realistic and thought-provoking events will help the child to be more loving and responsible toward dogs and all pets.

The author, who provided the safe home for Toby, based this story in actual fact filling in the details using logic and imagination. She ends the book with discussion questions that would be suitable for classroom or for a parent to share with his or her child. Not only does this book teach kindness to animals but it brings up important topics such as personal responsibility, prejudice, and points of view.

Don’t be surprised if your child gets a little upset reading this. Although it is not gruesome, there are some seriously sad and infuriating moments with regard to how people treat animals. It is a valuable book that I highly recommend for ages 10 and up.

Click on the cover to buy the book.

The author will be interviewed tomorrow.

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A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Pioneer Alphabet by Mary Alice Downie. Illustrated by Mary Jane Gerber. Book Review.

I love a book that takes you further and further into the subject. This is the type of book that a child learning about pioneers can go back to over and over again and learn something new each time.

On first read, the text boxes at the bottom of each beautifully illustrated page contains several words that begin with the featured letter. For example, “A is for Abigail and Anna, my two sisters. Even though they are awful, I am making them an alphabet book.” “B is for Bangalore. I can do whirrlies with it. Abigail can only make it go up and down, and Anna can’t even do that.” As you follow the text through the book, you learn more about Zebadiah’s pioneer family and the work and play that encompasses their very full days.

For a more extensive understanding of pioneer life, each page has further details at back of the book. For example, it explains the A page like this: “Like other pioneer children, the twins, Abigail and Anna, lived in a log cabin in the woods with their family and household pet – Xersus the cat. They didn’t go to school, nor did they have television, computer games, or friends nearby. But even though they had many chores, they still managed to have fun – and get into trouble!”

Going through the third time, the reader can examine the illustrations above each full-page picture. This reminds me of the style of Jan Brett. For example, above the “A” page you can find an acorn, arrow, ark, animals, acts, and bill, and amethyst.

This would be a very valuable resource for teachers in primary grades. There is just enough information on each page to make for a comfortable first read. Children will enjoy trying to figure out the additional alphabet words above each picture. Further information at the back will be helpful to the teacher.

The illustrations are impressive and engaging. By the end of the book, the reader feels as though he or she knows this pioneer family and how their lives progress. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in pioneer life or for classrooms where North American pioneers are on the curriculum.

Other books where the frames extend the story or information. Click on the cover to buy the book.

PLEASE COMMENT IF YOU CAN THINK OF SIMILARLY ILLUSTRATED BOOKS OTHER THAN JAN BRETT’S.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Yard Sale – Recycled Sundays

“Ouch! What did I step on?”

“No wonder you can’t shut the closet door! What is all this stuff?”

This is called pre-yard sale conversation.

In spite of my lectures on the value of money, the eternity of plastic, and the bane of clutter, my son collects plastic figures. Somehow we escaped G.I. Joe but not Masters of the Universe, superheroes, army ants, wrestlers, Ghostbusters, and now Ninja Turtles.

These are billion-dollar enterprises. Whenever my son gets close to completing the collection, new figures are introduced. He couldn’t live without a mailman who dropped his pants and transformed his belly into a toothy monster mouth. I saw him looking at our letter carrier with interest.

Manufacturers understand boys. Every year or two they create a new series to whet the collector’s flagging appetite. The stores are now stocked with Dick Tracy figures and, I’ll bet, Gremlins II are not far off. How about a politician series? Each figure would transform into a useless lump.

The bizarre thing is, these toys all have the same questionable play value. Good guys versus bad guy. They only vary in powers or abilities. Does it matter whether the figure can spit, spin body parts or mutilate?

When crossing my son’s room was like entering the Temple of Doom, I offered half the money from any toys sold. Suddenly that Dusty He-man didn’t seem so precious. It was easy to take the clutter induced, “Let’s have a yard sale.”

Conversations in closets, sheds and the basement went like this:

“Whose is this?” (Demanding)

“Mine.” (Hesitant)

“When’s the last time you used it?” (Disgusted)

“Not very long ago.” (Muttered)

“It’s filthy and has a spider’s web!” Stronger disgust.

“It’s still good.” (Quick)

“Great. Then someone will buy it.” (Insistent)

“But, I like it!” (Voice pitched higher)

“Then you’ll have fond memories.” (Decisive)

“Whose is this?”

When I finished the slag pile of saleable items, we made signs. My daughter warned us that her teacher said permanent markers cause brain cells to pop.

“Open a window,” I suggested.

“Pop. Pop. Pop,” muttered my son.

“We’d better do these outside,” I sighed. None of us could afford too much popping.

The usual types came to the yard sale.

Happy Bargainers laughed and socialized. Sometimes they offered less but never cheated.

The Lonely Scavengers had tentative voices and hesitated over each item. Once I showed an interest, they talked about their grandchildren (whose parents were probably tripping over plastic figures already).

The Serious Collectors looked for specific items, china or teaspoons, to complete their sets.

The Weasels got as much as they could for as little as they could any way they could. They didn’t smile and seldom conversed. They took off price tags, moved items into lower-priced boxes and offered a fifth of what was asked. One sent her tiny granddaughter, already wearing the jewellery, up to me with only half the money.

Finally, we packed it in. The leftovers were given to charity and the money was counted and divided. My son was ecstatic. He wanted to go to the mall immediately. There was one plastic ninja turtle villain he just had to buy.

 

Published 1992 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-news.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Dreamseeker Wish Keeper by Audrey N. Lewis. Book Review.

The story begins “Wisdom, Hope, Curiosity, and Love sat on top of Cloud Number Nine, the one with the pinkish lining.” There, they discuss the misguided wishes of dream seekers.

Then, they hear the wishes of a little girl who is about to celebrate her birthday. She dreams of things to help others such as homes for the homeless, a healthy earth, and her brother no longer needing a wheelchair. The dreamseekers decide to grant her a special gift. They leave her a soft journal filled with advice and a statement of love. Upon opening it, the little girl immediately wants to share with her family.

The illustrations are ink drawings roughly coloured in with pastels or crayons. Unfortunately, several of them seem rushed or unfinished. Many could use more detail.

I think this book would be unlovely accompaniment to actual gift of a journal to a child. It doesn’t have much of a story by itself. It is mostly an encouragement to follow your dreams. The message is an important one, though, and this book could be the stimulus for valuable discussion.

Buy link:Dreamseeker Wish Keeper

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Click on the book covers for more information or to purchase the books/

      

     

The Gingerbread Man (with a happy ending)

Most children are dismayed when the Gingerbread Man is eaten by the fox even though that’s what we do with cookies. In this version, not only is the Gingerbread Boy saved by the  little old lady who created him, but so are several other new friends he has made on his journey. This is a story of a different kind of family formed by love and compassion with a message of kindness to all.

The story contains repetitive phrases which children will enjoy reciting. The pictures were created using Legos, graphic illustration, and toys.

While you’re there, check out some of my educational and entertaining videos for kids, parents, and teachers. If you enjoy the site, give a video a thumbs up, subscribe, comment, and/or share.

 

A B C I Like Me! by Nancy Carlson. Book Review.

The alphabet is not the focus of this book. It is basically about seeing ourselves in a positive light. An anthropomorphic pig accompanied by a mouse and a frog (oddly the only one not wearing clothes) goes through the alphabet reciting something wonderful about herself. For example, “I am Awesome, Brave, and Cheerful. I have big Dreams.”

The pictures are brightly colored and fill most of the page with a simple phrase or sentence below. Gigantic smiles are plastered on everyone’s face.

Most of the things the pig mentions are attainable by preschoolers. They would enjoy connecting with the pig’s abilities. It might be fun to make a follow-up book of the child’s interests, talents, and quality. Inevitably, some would be the same but, with an adult’s help, some should be unique to the child. For example, B could be for building wonderful block towers, D could be for love to dance, and L could be for listen well to a story.

The book is just long enough for a toddler’s attention span. This would be a great book for a child who tends to self criticize, worry, or compare himself unfavorably to peers or friends.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages