Words are Confusing – Recycled Sundays

Considering the complexity of the English language, rich with synonyms, homonyms, and metaphors, it is amazing that humans understand each other as well as they do. Still, if we could eliminate misunderstanding most therapists, lawyers, marriage counselors, and peacekeepers would be out of a job.

 

Children play an old game called telephone or gossip which also illustrates how garbled messages can become once they leave the first pair of lips. A single misunderstood word can give the sentence a widely different meaning.

 

It can be very confusing for a child when they have missed understood a word and then hear it in a different context. I remember when my son was first learning to play Monopoly before he could read most of the words. He thought Pacific Avenue was Specific Avenue. He finally asked me to explain this oddity when I use specific in a non-Monopoly context too many times.

 

He also thought Qaddafi was a car. I wondered what brand of oil Gaddafi would use.

 

News broadcasts, often told too quickly, are a great source of misunderstanding. When President Bush made a cultural faux pas and offended the Australians, it was the topic of discussion at our dinner table.

 

“Did you hear?” said our daughter. “The American president gave the V for victory sign wrong when he drove past some Australians in his car and now they’re mad at him.”

 

“That’s not true,”said my son.

 

“It is so,” I said my daughter. “I saw on the news. We even talked about it in school.”

 

“That’s impossible,” continued my son who was an avid student of geography. “How can the president of the United States drive. his car to Australia?”

 

Perhaps in a Gaddafi.

 

After further discussion of the history of the V sign, my son offered his own interpretation. He thought that perhaps politicians use the two fingers up to signal the postal employees to raise the price of stamps two cents.

 

Even simple words used in slightly different ways can be misleading. My husband said they were 2000 applications to attend the faculty of education this year but only 400 seats were available. My son wanted to know if the rest would have to stand. I hoped it wouldn’t have to be in an unemployment line after graduation.

 

I often wonder about the hidden messages in questions. Recently a waitress asked if I wanted something tall and fruity or short and tart. Neither sounded appealing to my tastes.

 

You can often tell a lot about someone by what they don’t say. In a West Coast First Nations burial ground, time is marked by centuries. The headstones say which century a person died in. That certainly speaks of a long-range view. Without ever having met them, you suspect they are the kind of people who would support Spaceguard. Spaceguard is a proposed project that would track asteroids and comets heading toward earth that are capable of killing  one billion people or more.

 

We are living in a time when the information highway is spreading, yet few people can read the road signs. If you’ve ever followed a debate on a computer bulletin board you will have seen communication and miscommunication at its highest level. Unfortunately, those who don’t learn to ride the information highway will be bypassed or perhaps driven right over. Still, it is a message labyrinth even King Minos would find puzzling.

 

Numerous episodes of  In Search Of and Ancient Mysteries are devoted to unraveling messages left by previous cultures. I shutter to think what future cultures may deduce from our leavings, Madonna videos, Beavis & Butthead cartoons, newspaper war coverage, Snow CDs, bathroom graffiti, and income tax guides. If we have trouble understanding it as we live through it, future civilizations will be stunned. Anthropologists and archeologists will probably term it as the Time of Insanity. The general public will ask them to be more specific, especially about the game called Monopoly.

 

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times News

February 6, 1994

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Recycled Sundays – Movie Magic

Movies, films, moving pictures, flicks, motion pictures, whatever you choose to call them, have had a tremendous impact on this century. When Eadweard Muybridge set up twenty-four cameras to photograph a horse race in 1873, I’m sure he did not anticipate generations of screamers, weepers, groaners, and neckers would follow this new entertainment/artform.

In 1889, Thomas Edison built the kinetoscope. One person could watch the action through a peephole. Much of the allure was probably being allowed to see something no one else could see. I cannot imagine why anyone wanted to watch a man sneezing. Then again, it is not apparent why anyone wants to watch Woody Allen.

The Lumiere brothers showed the first group movies, the best showing a train arriving at a station. It is not known whether the train was on time or how much traffic it had backed up in the intercity area.

In 1990, movies begin to tell a story: Cinderella, a trip to the moon, then the great train robbery. We’ve come along way since then: Walt Disney Cinderella, Star Trek the Undiscovered Country, and Thelma and Louise.

In the 1950s 3-D movies arrived, the best being The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Now there’s 3-D, 4-D, Cineplex, IMAX, rides supplemented by film, rides imitating film, film imitating rides, live shows of filmed shows, and actors impersonating film characters who were originally impersonating someone else in a film.

At Universal Studios I covered my eyes with a new intensity while watching Hitchcock’s The Birds in 3-D. At MGM studios I laughed along with Jim Henson’s Muppets in 4-D. Smoke, bubbles, and exploding walls surrounded me. The mother behind me commented to her child throughout the production. My wish for a stray cannon shot to plug her never came true.

I travelled through a spaceport in MGM studios, star tours, surrounded by robots, droids, and special effects, to reach the actual ride. Strapped into a spaceship, the wild film unfolded. As I zoomed through the death star’s canyon, the entire room swerved and bucked. I thought I’d reach the pinnacle of tension until my son announced he discovered motion sickness.

The Indiana Jones spectacular showed stunt people acting out a movie scene done by stuntman acting as actors acting out a story for the movie. I am reminded of David Sukuki‘s comment that Mickey Mouse is a person acting as a mouse who behaves like a person.

We ate lunch at Mel’s drive-in bracket universal bracket from American graffiti almost witnessing a genuine rumble when the lady in front lost her cool and tried to shred the waiter with her tongue. I think she’d had too much heat and not enough cola. We had supper at MGM’s replica of a 1950s drive-in theatre with black and white film clips, a realistic horizon, drive-in speakers, popcorn, and waitresses on rollerskates. The only thing missing was the mosquitoes. Our children ate in the front of the car while my husband and I were in the back. They loved the role reversal.

We survived King Kong’s attack, the San Francisco, being spit on by camels in Aladdin’s Royal Caravan and a trip to ET‘s planet by bicycle. ETA says goodbye to each visitor by name which inspired us for a return trip, incognito. He did stumble a bit with the fake name “Goober.”

At the Kennedy Space Centre the IMAX theatre was the next best thing to a genuine launch. Unfortunately people had to sit on the theatre floor because of poor organization. They can send a man to the moon but they can’t make sure everyone gets a seat. The bus tour bored my son so much he fell asleep. Sometimes fiction is more interesting than fact. Disney offered American Journeys in 360° of circle vision. While standing, we were surrounded by moving pictures. Once the white water rafting started, I understood the importance of the leaning bars. We also learned about sound effects, horror make up, props, editing, shirts, animation, costuming, and special-effects. I have a new appreciation for the creativity and hard work that goes into filmmaking.

On our way home, we decided to visit Hull, Quebec in an attempt to break away from the movie glitz. We visited the Canadian Museum of civilization. Surprise, they have a Cineplus theater.

Originally publish in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

September 12, 1993

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Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf Who Loved Cookies by Bonnie Ferrante

A new video for all kids.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf Who Loved Cookies by Bonnie Ferrante

Little Red Riding Hook packed a basket of cookies to bring to her grandmother for a surprise.

RED: I’m not sure I remember which way to go. I think it’s this way.

A wolf peeked out from behind a tree.

WOLF: Hello. Something smells delicious.

RED: Not me, I hope.

WOLF: No it’s in your basket.

RED: Here, take a look.

WOLF: It’s cookies!

RED: They’re for my grandma. But I’m not sure if I’m going the right way. She lives in a log cabin.

WOLF: I know that cabin. Go that way.

So Red Riding Hood did but it took longer to get there then she expected. Meanwhile, the wolf took the short cut and got to grandma’s first.

GRANDMA: What are you doing in my house?

WOLF:  Roar! Run away or else!

After grandma left, the wolf dressed up as grandma and climbed into her bed.

Just then, Red Riding Hood arrived.

RED: Grandma, it’s me, Red.

WOLF: Come in dear.

RED: I brought you a basket of cookies, Grandma.

WOLF: Thank you, I LOVE cookies.

RED: Grandma, what big ears you have.

WOLF: The better to hear you with, my dear.

RED: Grandma, what big eyes you have.

WOLF: The better to hear you with my dear.

RED: Grandma, what big teeth you have.

WOLF: The better to eat… all the cookies.

GRANDMA: I’m back and you’re in big trouble. I brought my sword.

WOLF: Don’t hurt me. I just wanted a cookie.

GRANDMA: You can’t just bully people into giving you cookies.

WOLF: I’m sorry but I just love cookies. I found one in the forest once. It tasted so yummy, I’ve never forgotten. I’ve been dreaming about having another one since then.

RED: You know, Grandma, maybe we should let him go. I don’t think he wanted to hurt us.

GRANDMA: If he promises to be honest and kind from now one. Cookies aren’t good for wolves anyway.

WOLF: I will be good, I promise. But I wish I could have a cookie.

RED: But you shouldn’t take food from people. We’re not supposed to feed wild animals. That’s wrong.

The wolf nodded and sadly went back into the forest. Once a month, Red Riding Hood brought her grandma a basket of cookies. She always managed to drop one on the path where she met the wolf.

 

Remember, never feed real wild animals.

People food is not good for them.

Animals should never lose their fear of humans.
It keeps them and us safe.

Recycled Sundays – Footwear Has a Life of Its Own

People have often entertained the idea that inanimate objects can move, talk, and adventure. Jim Hansen was a marvel at bringing toys, plants and even shapes to life. Disney saw nothing wrong with making flowers, trees, and crockery sing and dance.

TVOntario runs a children show called Readalong. The star has a crush on a pink shoe. But, no need to arrange therapy, since he is a boot. This is no surprise to me. Considering all the anthropomorphism we indulge in, footwear has always seemed the most likely to me to live a life of its own.

I remember the year my son had to share a locker with another classmate at school. By the third week of September, his left shoe had walked away. It was not in any of the three full coffin-sized lost and found boxes, the mud rooms, the classrooms, the office, or the schoolyard. I know. We searched.

We bought him a new pair of shoes.

I think it is unfair that we have to buy shoes in pairs. Why is that? We don’t have to replace all four tires when one is ruined. I felt even stronger about this when my son lost another shoe before Christmas, the left one again. Talk about two left feet.

We bought him a new pair of shoes.

In April, he informed me that there was a “small” hole in one of his shoes. I insisted that it needed to last to the end of the year. Three pairs of indoor school shoes in one year would be outrageous.

A few days later, he told me the hole was beginning to be embarrassing. I told him to bring them home so that I could check them. The sole had pulled away from the shoe for at least 5 cm. Half of his foot stuck out the front. I’d hate to see what he considered a “big” hole.

We bought him a new pair of shoes.

It seems that the constant replacing of a single shoe with a new pair is not just a Canadian phenomenon. My friend, Yuko, told me that Japanese children are just as hard on their shoes, especially when they play the traditional game of geta toss. Getas are sandal-like shoes that people wore with kimonos. Children would play a game whereby they kick one shoe each into the air, much like how we toss a coin. If the geta landed right side up it meant one decision, if it landed right side down it meant another.

Yuko, being a modern girl, wore running shoes just like Canadian children do. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t kick them in the air in a rousing game with her friends. Unfortunately, modern Japanese children have a bigger concern then those who wore kimonos and getas — heavy traffic. Her kick was a bit off-center and the shoe landed in the street  just in the right spot to be crushed by a car. That was one air pump shoe with no more air in it!

They bought her a new pair.

I don’t think they were as upset as I was when my son came home in June of that same year with only one shoe, the left one this time. Ha ha, I thought. I save the right one from the second pair. They may not match exactly, but they’re good enough to play outside in. Unfortunately, they were an entire size different. They would probably make him run in circles just like his mother.

We bought him a new pair.

Somewhere, out there, two like-new left shoes have met up with all the other missing shoes and are high-stepping in the dance of freedom. They’ve join with the partners of all the shoes scattered on the sides of the highway in mockery of those mothers on the way to the shoe store.

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

March 7, 1993

NEW NOTE: This story is the inspiration for my upcoming picture book Geta Toss.

Surviving Northern Ontario Winters – Recycled Sundays

Boy, I’m getting tired of winter. Even the snow bunnies seem to have less sparkle in their colored contacts these days.

I miss walking the most. It doesn’t seem to have the same satisfaction combined with the Northern expedition – hands buried deep in pockets, back curved into a semi-fetal position, parka hoods drawn forward (no wonder polar bears can sneak right up on Inuit hunters), feet shuffling as fast as they can trying to grip the icy sidewalk, and head down against the wind.

I’m also going rather stir crazy. The most common pastime I engage in is “warming up the car”. People seem to try unusual things to break the boredom during the long winter months. They start new hobbies. They learn new games. They attempt new sports. They look at things with an overly negative eye.

I suspect it was midwinter blues that triggered the adverse reaction to the camel on Camel cigarettes. What was going through the minds of the public when they decided the cool humpback smoker had a face like… well, like another body part? I suspect it was the same boredom and long, dark days that recently caused an outcry against Nestle. It seems their palm tree symbol is as suggestive as the addicted camel. Upside down that is. What I want to know is this. Did the woman who complain store packages upside down in the cupboard and stumble upon this nutty resemblance when she went to make cocoa? Or, in the stir crazy mind set of a long winter nights, did she try yoga for the first time and gain a new perspective on fruit trees?

At this time of the year, those of us who are not snowbirds often wonder why we live here. I can’t answer that. I’m still trying to figure out why I bought the same kind of vehicle twice when the first one drove me crazy. Surviving a winter like this one, though, does give us a commonality, a shared trauma as such, much like living through an thunder storm that lasts for months. It also encourages us to take stock of things, like emergency flares and whether job security is worth having to climb through the car hatch because all the doors have frozen shut, again.

Friendly readers often comment on my columns, but the quiz on “Are You a Northerner?” seemed to to hit a responsive chord with many. A few women suggested I could dig into the more feminine aspects of being a Northerner since most of the questions pertained to men. There’s nothing like positive feedback to fuel the engine. So, here are a few more you can add to your list. You know you’re a northern Ontarion when…

  • Sixty percent of the labels on your clothing contain the words “warm to 30 below”.
  • You master walking in high heels on carpeting when you’re 11, tile floors when you’re 12, and snow when you’re 13.
  • All your foot wear is two-tone: black and salt, navy and salt, brown and salt, and red and salt.
  • You sign up for midwinter exercise classes to get you out of the house on those long, dark, depressing winter evenings and then missed the first two because it is too cold to go out, go to the third, and then decide you are too far behind everyone else to continue.
  • You have a sign over your kitchen sink that reads, “You catch ’em, you clean ’em.”
  • Half of your friends have more vowels in their names than consonants.
  • You play on a mix baseball team sponsored by a sports store at which you never shop and a mixed curling team sponsored by a tavern at which you are known by your first name.
  • You sign up for a hockey pool at work and at your favorite bar and feel physically ill when you forget to play your numbers in the lottery.
  • You’ve owned at least one vehicle that had holes hidden below the floor mat through which you could watch the highway flash past.
  • You always pronounce “sauna” correctly.
  • You think there is too much stick handling in hockey.
  • You order your garden seeds, all beginning with the words “Quick Grow” three months before planting.
  • You’ve actually eaten, but more probably drank, a food product made from dandelions.
  • You know the difference between a fiddlehead and a conehead.
  • You know how to put chains on winter tires, even when they’re moving.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, February 13, 1994

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

My Favorite Fifteen Fiction Picture Books I Reviewed in 2017

I’ve read so many wonderful picture books this year that it was impossible for me to shorten the list of favorites any further than fifteen. Click on the title to go to the review.

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

My Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books I Reviewed in 2017

Some of these are not strictly nonfiction but I felt they were informative enough to include in this list. They are in no particular order. Click on the titles to read the reviews.

Coming to Canada: Building a Life in a New Land by Susan Hughes.

This is a nonfiction history book is organized into easy-to-read sections. Is quite up to date and inclusive. It begins with the arrival of the aboriginal peoples. It follows through with the Acadians and the Great Expulsion, an example of how prejudice and politics can destroy the lives of ordinary people. Throughout the book, it honestly shows the cruelties and failures done while building our country.

 

A is for Anaconda: A Rainforest Alphabet by Anthony D. Fredericks. Illustrated by Laura Regan.

This is not an alphabet book for preschool or kindergarten children. In fact, calling it an alphabet book could be misleading. It is, in fact, an extensive resource book for information about rainforests.

 

Why I Love Canada. Illustrated by Daniel Howarth.

I really liked this book until I researched it because of a small notation on the cover. Now I love it. Each of the sentences was written by a child in Alberta. (That explains the buffalo.) The illustrator then took the sentences and created the book. This is the kind of think I loved doing when I was a primary teacher. Children have a wonderful way of noticing the beautiful.

 

Eating Green by Molly Aloian.

Although this picture book is written for children, it is a reminder for people of all ages of the impact of our choices.

 

Herds of Birds Oh How Absurd! by S.J. Bushue and Deb McQueen.

Readers learn that deer, dinosaurs, elephants, hippos, horses, kangaroos, llamas, moose, pigs, reindeer, seals, walruses, yaks, and zebras all travel in herds. But porcupines, flamingos, hamsters, alligators, butterflies, lions, toads, ferrets, geese, nightingales, dolphins, penguins, hummingbirds, and monkeys are identified by a different collective noun.

 

Seasons of Joy: Every Day is For Outdoor Play written and illustrated by Claudia Marie Lenart.

The book explores the four seasons, three pages dedicated to each one. The story is written in poetic prose and although there are occasional rhymes, it does not try to be a rhyming book. On each page, children participate in imaginative, child driven, outdoor activities.

 

Can You Say Peace? By Karen Katz.

Each double-page spread has the name of the child and the country she lives in on the left with a full-page bright illustration. A close-up of the child’s face on the is right with the words on how to say peace in their language with a pronunciation guide.

 

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

 

My Favorite Five Middle Grade Books I Reviewed in 2017

Click on the titles to read the reviews.

Erasable and Digby of the Dinosaurs

by Linda Yiannakis

Erasable: The protagonist, nine-year-old Ellie, discovers something in her grandmother’s attic that promises to solve all her problems. But like the genie who grants three wishes, one never knows where magic will lead. Ellie has little understanding of the karmic results of her decisions. What begins as little improvements cascades into major life changes, not all positive.

Digby: A little boy inadvertently finds himself in a secluded world where some species of dinosaurs still exist and have evolved to a higher level. But it is so much more than that.

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey. Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson.

The reader can’t help but love the little hero, Eddie, a tiny bug who braves the huge halls of the school, dodging a spider, a mouse, and lots of squishers (humans who stomp on bugs), in order to find his missing aunt.

 

Tangled Lines by Bonnie J. Doerr.

The reader is given an insight into the daily struggle of fishermen, the risks taken by Cuban immigrants to reach the United States of America, exploitation of the natural world, the senseless slaughter of wild creatures, and the courageous and giving nature of volunteers trying to protect endangered wildlife and the environment.

 

Something Stinks by Gail Hedrick.

Emily is determined to find out why fish are showing up dead on the river banks by her aunt and uncle’s home. Her small town is suffering from job loss, so Emily’s investigations are less than popular. She decides to focus on an exposé for the school newspaper. Whatever industry she points the finger at may mean disaster for the company and, subsequently, the workers.

 

 

Halito Gianna by Becky Villareal.

Gianna could easily become one of your children’s favourite book characters. This is a determined, bighearted, independent, and opinionated girl. She is resourceful and clever.

 

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

My Favorite Five Young Adult Books I’ve Read in 2017

These are my favorite five young adult books I reviewed this year. They are listed in no particular order. Click on the title to go to the review.

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth.

Both the major characters are engaging, complex, and selfless. I read this book in one night as I could not put it down. I loved both Justine and Perry. Both have big hearts, protective natures, a sense of humor, and courage.

 

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner.

Zentner understands survivor’s guilt at the deepest level. This is a story about the tragic deaths of three teenagers and the impact it has on the fourth friend and their families.

 

Trell by Dick Lehr.

This young adult book is told from the viewpoint of a 13-year-old girl named Van Trell Taylor whose father, Romero, is in prison. She was a baby when he was convicted of the murder of a 13-year-old girl in a gang/drug related crime where someone else was the target. Trell’s mother, Shey, is confident that, even though her husband was a drug dealer and petty criminal, he was not capable of murdering anyone. Trell enlists the aid of a new lawyer and burned out journalist to find the truth about her father.

 

Optimists Die First – Life Ahead: Proceed with Caution by Susin Nielsen.

17-year-old Petula De Wilde is plagued with guilt over her accidental contribution to her baby sister’s death. In addition, she has become obsessed with the idea that anything less than constant vigilance can result in tragedy, leaving her parents with no children at all. As a result, she will not shake hands, walk anywhere near construction sites, get in elevators, or do anything that remotely endangers her safety.

 

Avians by Timothy Gwyn.

Timothy Gwyn has built a fascinating and completely believable world in his first 416 page young adult science-fiction novel. His expertise with flying gives authenticity to the events without overwhelming the reader with technical jargon. Girls whose lives are miserable may be able to escape by joining the avians, an aeronautical group of young women fiercely loyal to each other and in love with flying glider planes used for commercial delivery and rescue missions.

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books