Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack

 Click here to buy Ah Ha!

There are only two there are only two phrases repeatedly used in this clever book, “Ah ha!” and “Aahh!” but plot and emotion are clearly shown through the illustrations.

Frog is just trying to relax in the pond. A boy tries to catch him with a jar, and the turtle, alligator, and flamingo try to eat the frog. Every time he escapes some dire fortune, he finds himself in another life or death situation. The story goes full cycle. When the boy catches the frog in a jar at the beginning, the dog accidentally releases the frog. At the end of the story the frog is cornered by the three animal predators until the boy catches him in the jar again. As the boy carries him away, the frog utters a new phrase, “Ha ha!” The reader assumes that the frog’s situation is almost as bad as being eaten by the predators until the clever frog pushes the lid off the jar and escapes.

Young readers will find this book both suspenseful and humorous. Adults will appreciate the clever chain of events and the inventive use of vocabulary, or lack thereof. It is a book that must be read aloud with great expression. Both phrases, “Aahh!” and “Ah ha!” have different meaning, depending on the context.

Illustrations are double-page, full-color, and expressive. The cheeky personality of the frog comes through loud and clear as does his terror at almost being eaten.

While this is, at first glance, a light-hearted and clever chain of unlikely events, the book does bring home the message that surviving as a little frog is challenging and requires both wit and courage. It encourages discussion on the morality of capturing live creatures for amusement, courage and determination, the food chain, and the importance of never giving up. For an adult, this book is a gentle reminder that life is short and unpredictable. Live in the moment; take the opportunity when it is available to lie back and say, “Aahh!”

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Fun Video for Families – Never Send Callie

I found a picture book I had written as an example to my class when my students were working on their own picture books. I wrote and illustrated it about 25 years ago. The story was solid so I decided to make it into the video. Some of the pictures needed to be redone and I had to add more, however the originals were done with pastels and pencil crayons. It was a new experience for me using that Photoshop pen – a triangular pastel pencil. Anyway, I think it turned out pretty well. Just in time for Mother’s Day. Enjoy.

New Family Video: Callie has one simple errand, to buy a loaf of bread. But with so many distractions and a vivid imagination, this seems impossible. Is her mother’s patience going to run out? What will they have for lunch if Callie doesn’t deliver? A funny story about a forgetful child.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Potty by Mylo Freeman. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Potty!

In this book, a series of African animals attempt to sit on a potty. It has appeared near a small village by a jungle. Beside it is a note that says “only the best bottom of all fit on this potty.” The zebra’s bottom is too big, the giraffe can’t bend his knees enough, and other animals, such as the leopard, snake, elephant, gorilla and tortoise, also fail to fit properly. In the end, a little bare bottom child sits on the potty and uses it correctly.

I’m not sure what the point of the story is other than to make a child snicker, especially when the gorilla puts the potty on his head. Perhaps it is to make the fearsome potty more approachable. If you’re looking for a book that will help to train your child, I’m not sure this will do much.

The illustrations are bright and cute with a lot of emphasis on bottoms. This might be book to take from the library rather than purchase.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Good Night, Already! By Jory John and Benji Davies.

 Click here to buy Goodnight Already!

This is not another frustrated complaint by a parent who cannot get a child to go to sleep. It is the opposite, in fact. Bear wants to sleep. For months. But duck is wide awake and wants company. Every time bear starts to fall asleep, duck wakes him up. Duck has numerous ideas about what they could do together but all bear wants to do is sleep. Finally bear cracks and screams at duck, “I said good night already!” Duck leaves and while reading in his armchair, falls asleep. Bear (possibly due to the adrenaline running through his system) is now wide awake.

This is an hilarious book. The expressions on such simple characters convey their personalities perfectly. Duck’s shenanigans will make a child laugh out loud. This book is sure to tweak some memories of similar situations wherein the child and someone else had different sleep needs.

Although the storyline is simple  and predictable, it is told with such comic genius and illustrated so delightfully that it carries you gleefully along. A perfect book for happy chuckles.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Once Upon a Potty written and illustrated by Alona Frankel. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Once Upon a Potty — Boy

Well, this is a twist on “Once Upon.” This simple little book is told through the viewpoint of Joshua was mother. It begins with a picture of the mother holding the hand of a naked little boy. Although it is healthy for a child to see the little boy’s penis and anus when talking about bodily functions, calling them a pee-pee for making wee-wee and a little hole for making poo-poo may not be the preferred vocabulary for many parents.

Joshua receives a potty from his grandmother. (Boy, that grandmother sure knows how to thrill a kid.) He tries to use it, but fails. He makes wee-wee and poo-poo on the floor. He continues to mess his diaper. Finally he sits on the potty and refuses to get up until he finally uses it correctly. He carries the potty to his mother who flushes the contents down the toilet. From that point on, he uses the potty consistently.

While not exactly a suspenseful thriller, the book holds a child’s attention because of the naked illustrations.

The mother’s calm reaction to Joshua’s accidents can be re-assuring to a child. The fact that Joshua sits for an extremely long time before succeeding can prepare a child for the necessity of patience.

This book is also available is a girl’s version. I can’t imagine what she calls a vulva.

 Click here to buy Once Upon a Potty — Girl

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Annalise’s Up and Down Day by Denise L. Jenne. Illustrated by Julie Lannone.

 Click here to buy Annalise’s Up and Down Day

My first impression of this book was that it was awkward to read to my granddaughter. It opens like calendar with the binding at the top of the page. But once we mastered the style, we were able to follow the story line. I think this was done so that the illustrator could have a landscape format.

Annalise is preschool girl who spends her day exploring up and down. The sun is up and the moon is down. The strawberries are down, the apples are up. Some concepts were less straightforward and needed explanation, such as, “Sit down. Eat up.” and “Guitar up. Getting down.”

The relationship between Annalise and her parents is warm and engaging. She lives a stimulated life with a good balance of indoor and outdoor play. One thing is for certain, Annalise is a busy little girl. Her exuberance is contagious. Children can relate to her simple, happy adventures.

Annalise seems to be a tiny child on her father’s lap but she appears to be huge climbing up the ladder on the slide. The book’s protagonist and concept seems suited for toddlers, however 24 pages of this repetition is a bit much for a child that age.

Further on the pen and watercolor illustrations, I felt they lacked depth and were sometimes so cluttered they obscured the focus. Annalise’s expressions, however, were excellent. Julie Innone graduated with an Art Education Degree and may need more time for her illustrative style to mature. I also think the split page pictures were confusing and perhaps using a traditionally bound book and having the “up” on the left and the “down” on the right would have been simpler for a child to follow. The pages with such things as, “Easel up. Paints down.” in a single picture, are easier for a preschooler to understand.

All in all, this would be fun to read to your child and then follow with some up-and-down activities of his or her own.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Can I Bring a Giraffe on the Plane? By Lesley-Anne Caporelli. Edited by Amy E. Vaughn. Book Review

Click here to purchase Can I Bring a Giraffe on the Plane?

This 8 x 10 picture book is suitable for children aged one to beginning reader. It starts with Rajesh traveling by plane to visit his grandparents. His parents say he can bring one friend. “Which friend should Rajesh bring?”

The story proceeds through a list of animals proposed as possible traveling companions. “Can I bring a giraffe on the plane?” “No, Rajesh, you cannot bring a giraffe on the plane.” It continues with lion, dolphin, mouse, horse, and finally, bear. Rajesh is surprised when a new response comes, “Why yes, Rajesh, you can bring a bear on the plane!” The last page reads, “Bears are always allowed on planes!” The associated picture shows four children accompanied by their teddy bears.

This book is perfect for beginning readers as the pattern of question and answer is worded the same and repeated five times. The sixth time, the question is answered differently. My three-year-old granddaughter quickly mastered reading the text. Although the child is not actually reading, the behaviour of following the print from left to right and remembering what is on each page by referring to the illustration sets the foundation for actual reading later on. As well, the name of the animal is set in a different font. Observant children will quickly decipher the named animal in response to the picture. Word recognition will eventually follow.

The pictures are bright and simple, the kind one would find on a nursery room wall. The characters are expressive in their responses to what is happening. The lion seems a little odd as he appears to have hooves instead of paws.

There are humorous moments in the book as Rajesh imagines the reaction to specific animals. People are frightened of the lion. The plane would have to be flooded and the passengers would need to wear snorkels for the dolphin. The mouse would make the stewardess scream. The horse would take a lot of space but be well loved. Bees would follow the bear with a jar of honey.

Short and simple but engaging, this is sure to become a favorite for preschoolers who want to be able to read on their own.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

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