Helping Out a Friend – The Secret Path by Nancy Gee. Illustrated by Kathleen Newman. Book Review.

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Click here to buy The Secret Path

This picture book is a sequel to The Secret Drawer which was reviewed on this blog February 27, 2017.

As the story unfolds, we discover that not only the flying squirrels but all the creatures of the forest have become friends with Maddie, the lady with the sock drawer, and Kitty. They decide to go down a path to Maddie’s house and give her the good news. What good news is still to unfold.

Instead of taking their usual path, they take a shortcut. Sal, one of the flying squirrels falls down into a hole and is trapped by a rock on her foot. It starts to rain and Sal is in danger of drowning. Each animal tries to get to her but is unsuccessful. Sal tells them to get Kitty. The animals race to Maddie’s house and, with gestures, convince the lady and cat to follow them. Turtle has placed himself over the hole to redirect the water but Sal is almost completely submerged. Kitty pulls her from the hole, Maddie wraps her up in a pink fluffy slipper, and the next day we learn the important news. Sal and Al have a litter of kits.

The illustrations have improved. The animals look more like woodland creatures and less like stuffed toys that have gone through the laundry without an anti-static sheet.

Although simple, this is a good story for children. Unfortunately, the author has chosen to write in rhyme again. Although it has improved somewhat, the beat seems a little awkward. There are twisted sentences such as, ” From a distance your cries we hear,/And you’re in trouble, we do fear.” In order to make the rhyme work, the author also uses some unfamiliar vocabulary for children. “Go find Kitty, he’ll fix my plight.” Although this is improved over her last book, I still contend that the story could be much better told without rhyme. It interferes with the pace and emotional connection to the story. It repeatedly pulls the reader out of the narrative. I would be interested in seeing this author tackle a picture book without rhyme. I think her storytelling skill would then come to the forefront.

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March 27, 2017 Review of the Secret Drawer on this blog.

March 29, 2017 Flying Squirrel Secrets: Author Nancy Gee Three Random Questions Interview on this blog.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A Simple, Painless Strategy for Getting Your Child to Eat Accompanied by Unusual Illustrations – Zeke Will Not Eat! By Delin Colón. Book Review.

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Click here to buy Zeke Will Not Eat!

Although this is a picture book, Zeke Will Not Eat! is written for parents as well. Delin Colón , the author, has a background in clinical psychology.

Zeke is not interested in eating. He hates having his play disrupted for mealtime and in rebellion cries and pouts throughout the meal. His parents are concerned for his health. His father passes on a technique his father used with him. They arrange the food on the plate to represent a little town. Zeke pretends he is a giant and destroys the town by eating it. By making it a game and encouraging Zeke to feel as though he has power and control, the onus is off the parents to convince Zeke of the value of eating properly.

This strategy is definitely worth a try. No matter how well-meaning parents are, mealtime can easily become a battleground. It might be fun to take it even one step further and have the child help select the food and build the structure or village he is going to consume. There are also numerous ideas online for turning food into three-dimensional art.

I’m not sure if I would read this to the child before attempting this strategy or after. Parents know their children best.

The second component about this book that is definitely worth sharing, with children and adults alike, are the unique illustrations. Delin Colón, both the author and illustrator, has used an unusual style of cut-paper art. The same 150 paper shapes are arranged and rearranged to create pictures of Zeke in a variety of activities. Once you understand the creative and problem-solving effort that went into using this technique, the illustrations are worth a second look. Delin Colón has included instructions at the back of the text for parents to try out this novel endeavour with their child. However, I would reassure my child that they did not have to use all the shapes in every picture.

An introductory activity to this might be using tangrams. Depending on the age of the child, a bucket full of geometric shapes could work just as well.

This book is worth obtaining for either the valuable conflict-free strategy for dealing with picky eaters or the unusual illustrations.

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The author will be reviewed on this blog May 3, 2017.

Click on the picture to buy the Tangrams 28 Piece Set by Learning Advantage

Click on the picture to buy  Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Does a Bear Poop in the Woods? – Potty in the Potty Chair by S.J. Bushue and Deb McQueen. Book Review.

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 Click here to buy Potty in the Potty Chair

The book begins with a little girl sitting on the potty. The narrator asks, “Are you a big kid on the potty chair, reading a book with bottom so bare?” To which the girl replies, “Yes!” Considering what follows, it seemed as though this should have been the conclusion to the book.

From this point on, various children are asked if they are like animals who do not poop in the potty. For example, “Are you an elephant who goes potty in the zoo, leaving big heaps that make us say P.U.?” A horse drops huge piles, an alligator creates a mess in the swamp, a dog goes potty in the grass, a cat goes in the litter, and a goose goes by the pond where we step in it, a bird drops it from above, and a mouse leaves pellets everywhere. The book ends with, “Are you a big kid who goes pink and tink, using the potty chair when you sink the ink?” Sinking the ink is explained at the back of the book.

I like the fact that children learn about animals as they read this book, even if it is just about their poop. There are moments of humor such as when the Asian child steps in the goose’s poop.

The book is consciously diverse. The featured children are of a variety of races. There is even one African-American child with blue eyes.

Each page has four lines with an A B C B rhyme scheme. There are some unusual words such as romp, skitter, splatting, pellets, and route which may be difficult for a child of age 2 or 3. Some of the rhymes seem a bit of a struggle.

At the back of the book is a page with “Tips for Potty training success“. There is some good advice about staying positive and being encouraging. It is great that the author makes a point of stressing washing your hands, both the child and the adult.

“Quick and easy steps” explains the sink the ink strategy for potty training. There is a chart the child can use to record his or her successes. Copies are available on the website http://www.thelittlefig.com. There is also a jingle on the website which I felt could have been a little longer and more memorable.

The illustrations are bright, simple, outlined drawings. They fill the page completely. The text is superimposed on sky, wall or tree. All the children appear happy and interested in their surroundings.

All in all, I think this would be a positive and productive book to use when potty training a toddler.

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

S.J. Bushue was interviewed on this blog November 16, 2016.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The New Small Person by Lauren Child. Book Review.


This book does an excellent job of telling the story from the point of view of the older sibling. In the beginning Elmore Green is an only child. He’s very proud of his room and he is the centre of his parents’ lives. He likes to watch his own television shows, eat his jellybeans, and lay out his toys just so. But when his younger sibling arrives he is no longer the centre of everyone’s attention. The small person demands a different channel on his little television, messes up his toys and even licks his jellybeans. Eleanor is told to accommodate the child because he is just small.

When the new small person gets bigger, he starts to emulate Elmore and follow him around. Eventually he is moved into the same room which Elmore detests this because now he has no escape. But, one night Elmore has a nightmare. The younger sibling hugs and comforts him and helps him to fall back asleep. After that they start to experience more commonalties and Elmore sees his sibling in a new light.

The children are dark skinned with curly hair while the parents’ friends are a mixture of skin colors. The drawings are simple but cute with no backgrounds and cross into double page spreads with words around them.

I think this is a realistic and helpful story for children expecting a younger sibling to arrive. At the beginning, and there will be problems and he will have frustrations. As the younger sibling grows, he will become more involved in the older sibling’s life and, hopefully, they can find common ground. I like that the older sibling was never mean and had patience in spite of his frustration and worry.

I think this book would be helpful for preparing an only child for the arrival of a sibling. Much discussion would need to follow, especially addressing the fears of being replaced. At the end of the story, we see that the older child is accepting and inclusive, but does have limits. No eating his orange jelly beans. Parents need to have open communication with the older child about acceptable boundaries and how to create them. I love the gentle tone of this book and the drawings are endearing without being overly sweet. Lauren Child’s book have never disappointed me.

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

  

  

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Read Alouds – Are you Breaking the Law?

I’m always looking for good sites for my granddaughter to view when Nana needs a break. I’ve been pleased to find a proliferation of read aloud sites. However, while big sites where celebrities read picture books probably have received permission from the authors, I wonder about individual sites. There are numerous sites where people read aloud books that are still under copyright.

Reading aloud an author’s book is basically the same as photocopying and reselling it. You have taken a potential sale away from the author. As well, myself included, many authors like  to post their own read alouds in hope that listeners will buy a copy of that book or another written by the author.

Many of these people are breaking copyright laws but some publishers/authors don’t bother going after them until they start getting large followings. There were a few in the tens of thousands that I wondered about but perhaps they acquired permission. Perhaps they just haven’t been caught yet.

You are allowed to read small snippets from books as part of a review or discussion. Most authors and publishers are grateful for the free promotion.

If you want to read a classic, like Peter Rabbit, simply verify that it is now in the public domain and you are good to go.

For more information (from Youtube)

https://www.youtube.com/yt/copyright/en-GB/fair-use.html

Here is a  link to a book read aloud I’ve reviewed, Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow, created by the author.

 Mary Elizabeth read aloud
Click here to buy Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow (A Sweetles Dream)

And here are my read-alouds. If you enjoy sharing them with a child, please like, comment, and subscribe to my youTube site.  https://www.youtube.com/user/Bonnie0904 

 Too Quiet, Too Noisy  read aloud

Click here to buy Too Quiet, Too Noisy

 Rayne Shines read aloud

Click here to buy Rayne Shines

The Amida Tree  read aloud

Click here to buy The Amida Tree

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Tip and Lulu: A Tale of Two Friends. Written and Illustrated by Lauren Isabelle Pierre. Book Review.

What immediately strikes you about this book is how the pictures seem to glow and the little meerkat and leopard exude personality plus.

Lulu is a lonely leopard. We are not told what happened to her family, simply that she is alone in the world. Every time she tries to make friends, the other animals run away in fear for their lives. On the way, we are exposed to various African animals.

One day she comes across three meerkats bullying a fourth. She steps out and defends him. Tip, the little meerkat, becomes a dear friend. Later, when they see the three bullies running for their lives from a secretary bird, they decide to help. Even though Lulu rescues them, the three meerkats still run away in terror. Lulu and Tip don’t mind. Their friendship is available when the others are ready.

I love this message. It would’ve been so easy to let the three bullies be eaten by the secretary bird. Instead, Lulu and Tip take the high road. They also accept that there is no reward for their kindness. Their friendship with each other is enough.

The story is told in rhyme, which is very difficult to pull off. It holds together fairly well with only a few awkward spots. I understand this decision to use rhyme for a heavy topic that has been addressed in so many ways. The cuteness of the animals also helps to keep the tone light.

Children will want Lulu to make friends and will empathize with Tip, the bully victim. This book will lead into a good discussion about forgiveness. At no point does Tip want to use Lulu, the leopard, for vengeance. This book is a nice counterpoint to all the comics, movies, and television shows which promote revenge.

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

    

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth! by Marie-Louise Gay. Book review

Gay does both the writing and illustrating for her books. In this story, rabbits are anthropomorphized and live like people. Roslyn decides she’s going to dig the biggest hole ever. Not e a mole hole. Not a rabbit hole. The biggest one on earth, possibly to China or to the south pole where she can meet a penguin.

Her father tells her she should probably bring a sweater. When she takes her shovel and sweater to the backyard, she spends some time choosing the perfect spot to dig. Not where it’s too rocky. Not too near the oak three.  Definitely not near father’s carrot patch. Unfortunately, finding the perfect site isn’t as easy as she thought.

Rosalyn upsets a worm’s home and is told to dig somewhere else. She upsets a mole who sends her away. Finally she upsets a dog when she uncovers his bone cupboard. Discouraged, she lays down in the bottom of the hole. She has given up.

But then her father comes out and exclaims, “This must be the biggest hole in the universe! Roslyn, are you down there?” His enthusiasm is contagious and soon they are both having lunch in the bottom of the hole. The last line reads, “She couldn’t wait to meet the penguin.”

This is a lovely story about resilience. Although Roslyn’s attempts to dig the biggest hole are thwarted by things beyond her control, with her father’s support, she is able to feel successful. It also reinforces the power of imagination.

Marie-Louise Gay’s illustrations are wonderful, as usual. Although many of her pages have large sections of white paper, they never lack for dynamics. Roslyn is an adorable little bunny whose two tiny eyes are somehow able to still convey a wide variety of emotions.

Most children can relate to wanting to dig the biggest hole. Perhaps they tried to stack the tallest tower or lay out the longest road. I’m sure you can think of more.

Don’t expect your child to not want to dig a hole after reading this book. Perhaps you could bring it to the beach along with a shovel and bucket.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

My Two Grannies by Floella Benjamin. Illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain. Book review.


Alvina has two grandmothers that love her very much. Granny Vero is from Trinidad. Granny Rose is from Yorkshire. They both love their granddaughter and enjoy sharing stories about their childhood. When Alvina’s parents decide to go on a holiday, both grandmothers insist they should care for the little girl. They finally agreed to do it together.

Of course they argue constantly about who is going to tell her a bedtime story and what activity they will do next. The little granddaughter finds the solution, a simple but sensible one. In the end the grannies learn to know each other better and as well as providing a healthy, loving, and fun-filled atmosphere for Alvina.

The illustrations are full page drawings that clearly show the emotions and personalities of the characters.

This is a great book that shows how our differences and actually enrich our lives.

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Click on the book cover for more information or to purchase the book.

    

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Bye-bye butterflies! By Andrew Larson. Illustrated by Jacqueline Hudone-Verelli. Book Review.

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Charlie, a preschool child watches as numerous butterflies soar above the rooftop of the local school. He sees many hands waving goodbye and hears children calling out, “Bye-bye butterflies.” One child looks down at Charlie and his father and waves.

This event remains a mystery to Charlie until  he attends school himself. He discovers that each year children receive caterpillars. They feed them and watch them spin chrysalises. When they emerge as butterflies, they are released.

This is a lovely gentle story meant to encourage a love of nature. The pictures are composed of spaghetti arms and bobble heads with soft water colour and textured illustration. The relationship between the father and son, Charlie, who watch the initial butterfly release, is sweet. The story goes full circle because at the end Charlie is waving to a little boy who watches the butterflies release.

The back of the book has a selection of info boxes such as Are you a butterfly or are you a moth?  and So you want to be a butterfly scientist? as well as information on butterfly defense, the lifecycle, migration of the monarchs, and cool facts. Here the author refers to the chrysalis as a chrysalis while in the text itself it is called a cocoon. I prefer to use cocoon for moths and chrysalis for butterflies. That way there is no confusion for the children. A cocoon and a chrysalis are different.

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Cocoon (By Kerina yin at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

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I thought I should provide some authority for my position so here is a quote from “Reference” https://www.reference.com/science/difference-between-chrysalis-cocoon-a70033d993053639#

The chrysalis stage is also called the pupa stage, and is a phase of a butterfly or moth’s life between the larva stage, when the butterfly or moth is a caterpillar, and the adult stage. During this stage, butterflies form a chrysalis by secreting a hard protein shell around themselves. Moths on the other hand spin their cocoons out of a silk-like material. Butterflies can also secrete silk, but only enough to adhere themselves to the surface they make their chrysalis on.

I always thought growing a butterfly for release was a great activity to do with children until I researched it in 2006.

Here is information on that subject.

American Museum of Natural History

Butterfly Release: A Misguided Practice

Most butterfly farms sell only to exhibitions, educators and responsible collectors, who keep the adult butterflies in captivity. Breeding butterflies for release into the wild at special events poses serious risks to wild butterfly populations and is not endorsed by conservationists. (more)

As well

National Wildlife Federation

The National Wildlife Federation discourages releases of commercially obtained butterflies for a number of reasons, including:

Releasing butterflies can result in the possible introduction of species into areas where they are not native, possible carrying and spreading diseases at the same time.

Even if a species is native, a farmed population has a different genetic make-up than the population into which it is being introduced. This might result in negative effects on local populations.

Introductions are not the solution to dwindling butterfly populations. Habitat conservation and the elimination of pesticides from the food chain are better solutions.

also

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Butterfly releases could unleash problems for state wildlife. (more)

As well, many of the larva die in shipment. Many others don’t make it to the butterfly stage. So this seems to be an example to me of well-meaning but uninformed people. I would suggest instead that you provide a butterfly house and plant milkweed for the monarchs in your schoolyard.

When writing for children, it is vital that your information be up-to-date and ethical. This book was published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside in 2012. I know this information was available because I researched it six years earlier.

Because of the environmentally erroneous actions portrayed in this book, I would not recommend it.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Try one of these books instead. Click on the cover for information.

    

Look Out For Barb! – Jump! By Guy Porfirio. Book Review.

 

Click on the cover to buy a copy of Jump!

This is Guy Porfirio’s first book as both writer and illustrator. As soon as you open the book it is apparent that Porfirio has a talent for remarkable illustrations. The double page spread on the inside cover is a collection of pencil sketches probably used when planning this picture book. They are action-packed and humorous, as is the rest of the book.

The book opens with a double page spread of the desert filled with cacti and a distant coyote. The text reads, “Ordinarily, things are pretty quiet in the desert. But this was no ordinary morning. And Barb was no ordinary cactus. Barb, you see, wanted an adventure.”

Right away, we know something new and exciting is going to happen and we suspect the coyote will be involved. Barb jumps onto the passing coyote who flings her through the air where she lands on a man’s jeans. It continues with a ride in an eagle’s talons, the popping of a river raft, a roof luggage rack ride, perched on top of a motorcycle helmet, on a balloon and on and on around mainland United States. Eventually, Barb misses her friends and hitches a ride on “the very next cowboy home.” She regales her friends with her adventures. Soon everyone is following her example and cacti are popping up everywhere.

This is a humorous book with impressive illustrations. The reader enjoys following Barb’s wild adventures. One page was especially cool where Porfirio divided the double page spread into six slices and wrote and illustrated, “She boarded, boated, bulldozed, bobbed, bicycled, and bounced.” A lovely page of alliteration.

Without using overly difficult words, Porfirio enriches the text in clever little ways. Another example is when we read, “And Barb got a little carried away at the Museum of art.” The words have a double meaning since Barb is floating away on the string of a balloon.

Although it was adventurous for Barb, I think the story could have been more suspenseful for the reader if, at one point, we felt she was in danger. However, it was the author’s choice to keep the story sweet and fun.

After reading this to a child or class, a discussion about trying new things and taking reasonable risks could follow. And of course, researching jumping cactus, which don’t really jump but hook in painfully should you go too near.

This was a really fun book to share with my granddaughter. We loved Barb and wanted her to have the trip of a lifetime, which she certainly did.

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

The author will be interviewed on this blog on April 19, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages