Three Random Questions Interview with Author Joy Heyer.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Joy Heyer to my blog. Duck, Duck, Moose seems to be your first book. If that is correct, what inspired you to use animals in your book and feature such an unusual take on a child’s game?

Joy Heyer: I love puns and word play so when the phrase “Duck, Duck, Moose” popped into my head, I immediately pictured a fearful duck riding on the back of a moose. How did the duck get to the moose? Where was goose? What would it be like to play duck, duck, goose with a moose instead? Or a pig? Or a porcupine? And suddenly I had a picture book.

Ferrante: When did you begin writing and why have you chosen children’s picture books as your genre?

Heyer: I studied writing and illustrating children’s books when I was in college but it wasn’t until 2009, when a friend invited me to join her writing group, that I really started seriously writing and illustrating.

Ferrante: You have four children and are now a grandmother as well. Have you used your family as inspiration for your book?

Heyer: Oh yes! My children have been sad, grumpy, and lonely many times because their best friends were out of town. Watching them decide to be happy and make new friends is always a delight.

Ferrante: I see we have similar interest in reading, writing, painting, sewing, and dreaming up home-improvement projects. How do you balance these interests? Do you switch for a break after a long period working on one craft or do you do several at a time? How does this impact your writing?

Heyer: Drawing and painting are my favorite things to do so I have to make sure I set aside time for all the other things that need doing, including reading and writing. Fortunately, reading, writing, and drawing are interconnected so I find myself doing at least a little of each every day. As for home-improvement projects…well, maybe someday I will get to them.

Ferrante: Your bio mentioned that you have a dog that goes crazy whenever you leave the house. Do you think this pet might show up in one of your future books?

Heyer: Definitely. He provides me with lots of great story ideas—so many I hope to create a whole series of books with him as the main character.

Ferrante: That sounds fun. As a new author, what have you learned the hard way that you wish you had known earlier?

Heyer: It takes a lot of hard work and practice to be good at writing and illustrating. Who knows? Maybe I would be discussing my tenth book instead of my first book if I had started practicing earlier!

Ferrante: Absolutely. What are you working on now?

Heyer: I continue to draw and write everyday (practice, practice, practice!) so when the next project comes, I’m ready. In the meantime, I’m enjoying sharing Duck, Duck, Moose with everyone. Maybe I could start a home-improvement project…

Ferrante: Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share?

Heyer: I would encourage everyone to find someone who is lonely and be their friend, even if at first they are grumpy. Just like moose and duck.

Ferrante: If you could MC any television show which one would you choose?

Heyer: PBS Masterpiece Mystery! I LOVE mystery shows and books. It all started with my first Nancy Drew book. Maybe one day I will write a mystery book, maybe a dog who solves crimes…

Ferrante: Go for it! If you could compete at an Olympic level, which sport would you pick?

Heyer: Snowboard Half-Pipe. I would love to have that talent. I can’t even handle little rollercoasters so all that twisting and spinning they do is doubly impressive to me.

Ferrante: That’s a gusty choice. What is your favourite children song and why?

Heyer: The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, though in our home it is the Eeby-Beeby Spider because that is how one of my daughters sang it when she was little. It reminds me of the happiness one little song sung by a child can bring.

Ferrante: There’s nothing sweeter, that’s for sure. Thank you for answering my questions and sharing your experience with us. Best of luck with Duck, Duck, Moose and your future writing.

Book review of Duck, Duck, Moose


Recycled Sundays – Achoo!

I know I’m coming down with something when I become accident prone. The first viral assault tends to knock out my coordination, not that there’s much to begin with. But, when I try to lick a stamp and get a papercut, I know it’s a stuffy head is on the way.
I was getting cocky this year, not having missed a day of work even in the midst of cold and flu season. Then, Mr. Virus slapped me a good one. It wasn’t the kind of virus for the victim is knocked off her feet for three or four days and then recovers. It was the peekaboo kind.
There was a slight fever that came and went for no apparent reason. In midsentence my face would suddenly flush in the room would seem a little smaller. I would return to work after day in bed and then find my head drooping to my desktop, an overpriced paperweight. By the end of the day, lifting my briefcase seemed as impossible as restoring Michael Jackson’s reputation.
There were sinus headaches and fever headaches and “someone hit me in the temple with a hammer“ headaches. There were aches and pains, and pains and aches, as though I had run the Triathlon wearing barbed wire. I never knew armpits good hurt so much.
But most of all, there was exhaustion. I easily slept 10 hours a night but every afternoon I napped as well. “I can’t possibly need more sleep,“ I’d tell myself. Then, I would put the milk in the cupboard and the sugar in the fridge or I would change the empty toilet paper roll by throwing away the new role and trying to flush the empty cylinder.  When I wasn’t sleeping, I was resting. The couch is permanently form to my body shape, left side down, space for the remote by my elbow.
This might not have lasted for weeks if I had given in and gone to bed at the start but colds and flu never arrive at convenient times. There were pre-Christmas tasks to be done. There were jobs at work no ask no one else could do. They were commitments to be met. There were people who needed me. The virus and I were on alternate schedules.
To complicate matters, I never get sick alone. Leaving living with a family means someone else always catches it. To be fair, I think my son had it first. It just seem to hit him hardest after I spent my first day in bed. When a child is sick, the sick mother‘s recovery takes second place.
I didn’t read a large novel curled in bed but sat on the couch, a small corner of my son’s blanket on my feet, reading aloud the original saga of Batman with a cough drop in my mouth. Forget watching relaxing ballet or figure skating on television. By the end of the first week I memorize the songs and chants in Power Rangers, “Go! Go Power Rangers! (hopefully out of sight). There was Captain Planet and the Planeteers, “You can be one too! Saving the planet is the thing to do.“ As opposed to what? I’ll never forget Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, “This is the song that never ends. It just goes on and on my friend.“ It gave me a strong craving for not roast mutton.
I learned how to lock on my Camp Caribou baseball cap should I ever be forced to wear one. I learned that Samurai Pizza Cats are smart mouth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rip offs that deliver pizza by being shot from a revolver and fight an interior decorator in their spare time which seems a bit drastic now that chrome and black plastic is no longer popular. I learned that Dennis the Menace was really a sweet little boy.
Instead of cross stitching orwriting letters, I play played canasta, washed sheets, played canasta, washed pajamas, and played canasta. Thank goodness my son received an automatic card shuffler for Christmas. I was getting permanent heart and club works on my hands.
I also spent a great deal of time exclaiming over three dimensional or holographic or brilliantly coloured comic characters. They had names like Daredevil, Dead Pool, Ghostrider, Punisher, Spawn, X-Men, X-force and X-cutioner, some of which I think are actually the good guys. Everyone was armed to the teeth with super weapons and seem to have several problems with saliva control and mucus. This was an eye-opener and let you some rather intense discussions and weeding out of the comic collection. I miss the days of Archie and Garfield.
First published by the Chronicle-Journal?Times-News
Sunday, January 2, 1994

Lego Four-(Three)-in-a-Row Game Review – Toy Review

I modified an activity from the book 365 Things to do with Lego bricks – activities, games, challenges, pranks. On page 53 the book has the instructions for “play the four-in-a-row game“. We already have that game with the stand up holder and the checker shaped pieces. I tried teaching it to my granddaughter when she was three but it was too difficult. She almost had it at four so I decided that it would suit her learning level better if it was only three in a row. Rather than confuse her by using the same game, I modified the lego one and called it three-in-a-row.
I put white stripes between each section where the cubeswill go to make it even clearer for her. I made 12 green cubes with white tops and 12 blue cubes with black tops. This required a lot of Lego pieces of one color. We have buckets full but it was still  a challenge to complete 12 of each of the cubes. You could make more if you want. Basically the game could go on and on and on, building upward.
This picture at the top of this post shows what the game looks like before beginning.
This picture shows both players about to win. If green is next she can put a green cube to the left or right of the two green ones  and win with a horizontal three in a row. If blue is next, she can put a blue cube on top of the two blue cubes on the left most side to complete three in a row.
Durability three  stars While legos last forever, I find they don’t stay together very well. Even though I reinforced this game more than the instruction recommended,  it is pretty fragile.
Play quality four stars The original design for the four-in-a-row game would keep a child busy building and playing with a friend.
Safety five stars Completely safe to build. 
Age interest five stars Building 7-10, playing 4/5 – 10.
Storage and portability two stars The original design is quite large and doesn’t hold up well when moved.
Price three stars You need a significant number of Legos to complete this game.
Somewhat recommendedHere is a one minute video of my four-year-old granddaughter trying it out. You can decide if it would work for your child.

Rafa and the Mist by Kade Baird. Illustrated by Jess Rose. Book Review.

This lovely watercolour picture book is more of an advice and discussion starter than a story. Rafa is being bullied. It may be because of his accent, skin color, or his clothing. He runs into the woods and takes refuge in the mist. The mist speaks to him and protects him. It tells Rafa to develop a plan to stop the bullies and to get support and protection from adults. Eventually Rafa is able to attend school safely and makes some friends.
The author states that the bullies will regret what they have done. This is a point that is often overlooked in picture books and it opens the door to discussion with bullies. I’m not sure it’s always true but it may give pause to children who are feeling guilty about their participation in bullying. Most bullies who realize they’ve done wrong to others, deny it or play it down.
The book does not actually give problem-solving tip for dealing with bullies but more encourages children to tell adults and seek support. I would have really liked something at the back of the book for children sand adults on bullying resolution
strategies or a link to helpful sites available on the net.
The author states that the bullies are scared of Rafa. While this may be true, it is not always true. There are genuinely children who enjoy hurting  others for the power rush it gives them or the release of adrenaline or the increase in social status. That is why a single strategy does not work with every child in every situation.
The first step in getting help is asking for it so this book would be useful in a classroom. Children are smart and sneaky when they are bullying and teachers may not be aware of what is really going on. This book might encourage a victim or a bystander to come forward and reveal acts of cruelty that have been hidden from the adults.
The tone is hopeful and encouraging. However, because bullying is such a hot topic right now there are numerous books available on the subject. I wouldn’t recommend this as the only purchase but it could be useful as one of a set of books. It is a rather long text, suitable for children six years old and up.

Recycled Sundays – Breastfeeding Pads are Tricky

When I was a child, my mother warned me never to go out with pins in my underwear.
“What if you were hit by a car? You don’t want the doctor to see your panties are held up by a safety pin.“
If I was in an accident, severe enough to be hospitalized, my underwear would be the least of my concerns. But I didn’t say that. That’s why I found breast-feeding a little disconcerting. Well, not the feeding, the accoutrements.
I was a devoted nursing mother and faced all the typical challenges with determination. But, I must confess, I hated the underwear. Nursing bras, even though composed of ribbons and strategically placed flaps, are not pretty. Add to this the alternating smells of vitamin A&E ointment and damp tea bags (for soreness) not to mention swelling and shrinking breast sizes (not the same) and you understand why I felt like a frump.
I was determined to find the perfect nursing pad – material placed inside the bra to absorb embarrassing leakage. I tried cheap circular ones which didn’t absorb. The outlines of expensive circular ones showed through my clothing like headlights. Folded cotton fabric gave me a square shape. None of these stayed in place unless they were pinned and, my mother‘s voice echoing in my head, I drew the line at pinning.
Finally, I found the perfect pads. Round, soft, absorbent, slightly cone shaped to stay in place, comfortable nursing pads. The crowning glory was a subtle nipple shape in the centre to avoid that padded appearance. I never left home without them.
I gave working as a part time teacher-librarian a shot for a while. I was still nursing and thought my schedule and my trusty new nursing pads would get me through a few hours.  One day, about an hour after I fed my baby her lunch, I felt a draft on my right breast. As I was engaged in conversation with three of my coworkers, I couldn’t openly check the source of this sensation. With subtlety befitting a secret agent, I located the cause. My perfect nursing pad was missing.
Trying not to panic, I quickly glanced around. Three steps behind, on the rust-coloured carpet, sat my white pad as bright as a full moon. The femininely-shaped tip left no doubt as to the purpose of this object.
Immediately, taking command, I delegated jobs to my coworkers, quickly stepped back and placed my foot over the pad. As soon as no one was looking in my direction, I scooped it up and threw it into the trash. No good. The can was completely empty. The pad shone brightly up at me. I grabbed the largest paper I could find, wrapped the pad and dropped it back into the can. I tried not to jump when a student walked up and asked me for help finding a particular book.
The next day, I used pins.
Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News
Sunday, October 21, 1990
PLEASE NOTE: Both A and D ointment and the tea bag treatment are no longer recommended for a breast-feeding mother.

Giant Animal Dominoes – Junior Edition. Toy Review.

Durability five stars. The 28 wooden dominoes are solid and the jungle animal images hold up well.
Play quality five stars. The littlest child can make a domino train. Four and up can learn how to play simplified dominoes.
The pieces are big enough to build wooden towers and other structures.
Great fun making noisy domino rows to knock down.
The animals are free jungle creatures making this game suitable for vegans.
Safety five stars. No splintering.
Age interest five stars. Even older kids will love setting them up and knocking them down.
Storage and portability four stars. Fits neatly back in the original box but it is fairly heavy for preschoolers.
Price five stars. I paid $25.00 at Home Sense which seemed steep at the time but these are good quality that will last and now I feel they’re worth it.
Highly recommended.

Bloom – A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad. Book Review.

This is a 8X10 picture book that tells the story of a fascinating and unique individual, Elsa Schiaparelli. It begins in early childhood where we learned that Elsa was a disappointment to her parents because they wanted a boy and she wasn’t as pretty as her sister. This compelled Elsa her to examine the concept of beauty.

Her experiences might have crushed her spirit if it had not been for her uncle Giovanni. He was an astronomer and also a dreamer like Elsa. He encouraged her imagination and told her she was beautiful. Elsa took refuge in the world of make-believe. She yearned to become an artist.

As a single mother she realized, “To be an artist is to dream big and risk failure.“ In spite of the unlikelihood of success, she brought her dress design sketches to Paris. Fortunately, she fell in with the most creative and innovative people of her time, including Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. Although she could neither sew nor knit,  she was able to have her creations made by others and through hard work became an international sensation. She invented the colour shocking pink and her dress designs were like nothing seen before.

The last two pages of the book give more details of her life. It was wonderful to read that she offered high wages and benefits to her employees when she achieved success. Her personal motto was “Dare to be different.”

This would be a wonderful book to read to a child who is labelled as different or not beautiful or too imaginative or a daydreamer. Like Einstein said, imagination is more important than knowledge. Without the Elsas of the world, our lives would be stagnant and dreary.

The pictures in this book have have a stylish quality that suits the topic without being ostentatious. The pictures of Elsa clearly show us her gentle, creative personality and her vulnerable introspection. This success story should encourage children to follow their dreams and never give up.
Highly recommended for children age 6 and up. Even adults will enjoy this wonderful book.
I want to  encourage more books like this so, inspired by Bloom, I’ve created my own award “Fostering Female Fulfillment.” This book is the first recipient.

My Kingdom for a Burp – Recycled Sundays

By the time my colicky daughter was one week old, I cherished belches. Colic, for you sheltered souls, results in painful gas. Babies cry incessantly and periodically empty their stomachs.
I read books and articles, consulted medical personnel, and coffee klatched. I found there are 4,000,552 possible causes. I could avoid seven. No cure! Everyone, even experts, agreed that burps are gold nuggets for which parents pan.
After I had fed and burped my daughter, her daddy put her in the carriage. The jiggling motion, we hoped, would soothe her and release trapped gas. Our daughter was quiet until daddy reach the farthest point in his walk. Then she screamed, swallowing large quantities of air, until they reached home. As daddy lifted her from the carriage, she released both air and stomach contents.
We thought it must be the carriage. We bought a frontal baby carrier. She screamed like a tortured spider as we negotiated her arms and legs through the holes. On the walk, at the halfway point, she began to howl. Daddy lost 15% hearing in his left ear. When he arrived home and untangled her, she vomited on cue, but with a bonus. The new target was daddy‘s hair.
Strategy number two was improving our burping techniques. We tried a dozen variations over the shoulder. Our daughter refined her skill into projectile vomiting. That meant nothing was safe. With the deadly accuracy of a trident missile, she white washed the house.
I laid her across my knees, shortening the attack distance. I laid her on the carpet with triple blankets underneath. I rubbed her back as I cupped her fat cheeks. I bent her like a Gumby doll. We have a treasured photograph of daddy carrying her in the colic position. She is lying a straight on his arm, head in his hands, as he paces. Baby is asleep. Daddy’s hair is grubby, there are bags under his bloodshot eyes, and he has lost all feeling in his arm. Although we managed to get window shaking belches from her tiny tummy, the miserable colic remained.
Strategy three involved machinery. I laid my daughter in her bassinet on top of the dryer and stood close by. The gentle vibrations and monotonous sounds were soothing but woe to mothers who run out of laundry. I washed sheets twice a week.
Car drives were suggested. I avoid traffic lights and slowly rolled through stop signs, unable to halt until she been had been asleep for 20 minutes. Arriving home, I had a choice: unbuckle her and wake the sleeping dragon or catch some rest in the driver’s seat. Because the tank was continually drained, gas attendants knew me by name.
When I reached the post zombie state and put ice cream in the cupboard and shoes in the refrigerator, a friend rescued us with the Swing O-Matic. My daughter slept in a cloth seat suspended from rods while we cranked it up. For 15 minutes, the gears clicked. Baby dropped off to sleep. But when the rocking stopped, she jerked awake and howled. If we wound up the noisy gears as the mechanism slowed, she would screech for quiet. We took turns cranking during the night providing each other with 30 whole minutes of rest.
As with most stages, colic past. Four months felt like four years. By age six my daughter had mastered stomach gas. At will, she could lose a belch loud enough to startle birds in flight. Generally though, she saved the good ones for wedding receptions and attending the ballet.
Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News
September 30, 1990

Melissa and Doug Peek-a-Boo Turtle – Toy Review

Beginning today, I will be reviewing toys, games, and activities  for children every Friday.

Although Melissa and Doug toys have a great reputation. I have found that their products vary in quality and usability. Happily, the peekaboo turtle is an exceptionally good toy.
Durability five stars. My granddaughter has had this toy for four years and the elastics are still as strong as ever and the paint has held up well. It easily wipes clean. It was left outside in the rain for a day and survived.
Play quality five stars. It begins with playing peekaboo as a baby. Teach the words head, body, legs, peek, hide. It builds fine motor control and finger strength in a toddler. Imaginative play for years.
Safety four stars. No sharp edges. A toddler might get a bit of a snap if the head or feet close quickly on her little finger but it would just be a small sting.
Age interest five stars. This toddler toy will extend into older ages. My four-year-old granddaughter refuses to give it away and still enjoys playing pretend with it.
Storage and portability five stars. Smooth and compact. Can fit in a large pocket.
Price five stars. Worth $10.00.
Highly recommended.