The Three Little Pigs are Rescued

I have a new video for kids. This original version of the Three Little Pigs helps children develop compassion for animals. It is told using Legos, K’nex, illustration and graphics.

I’ve learned a  lot making this rather long feature composed of 356 frames. About 100 are partial repeats in one way or another. I have ideas for several others but I’m going to take some time to focus on book reviews and writing/illustrating and other projects. I’m also going to do some research on making videos, a bit late in the game but better late than never.

 

Please consider leaving a thumbs up, a comment, and subscribing if you want to know when my next one appears.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

  

Click on the cover to buy the book.

Wise and Beautiful – If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson. Book Review.

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 Click here to buy If You Plant a Seed

This stunningly beautiful book, with full color photographic-like illustrations, portrays animals realistically yet gives them human personalities.

A rabbit and mouse plant a tomato seed, a carrot seed, and a cabbage seed. They care for the garden until the plants are fully grown. When they harvest their work, five birds show up and stare at them, expecting the rabbit and mouse to share. At this point, you might expect this to become a Little Red Hen clone but it is so much more.

Through the exceptionally expressive illustration, Nelson shows the argument between the creatures which explodes into an all out food fight.

Afterward, mouse thoughtfully examines the cherry tomato and then offers it to the birds. The birds then use their flying ability to spread hundreds of seeds across the field. They help the mouse and rabbit care for the garden until the plants mature. Harvest time provides a wider variety of vegetables in plentiful quantities.

The sparse words are profound and exquisite.

“If you plant a tomato seed, a carrot seed, and a cabbage seed, in no time, with love and care, tomato, carrot, and cabbage plants will grow. If you plant a seed of selfishness, in a very short time, it will grow, and grow and grow into a heap of trouble. But if you plant a seed of kindness, in almost no time at all, the fruits of kindness will grow, and grow, and grow, and they are very, very sweet.”

This remarkable little book uses nature to illustrate our karmic consequences. We may think we are only planting vegetables but, by our actions, we are planting our lives.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Button Nose the Sad Little Bear by Gina Lobiondo. Illustrated by Brittany Wilder. Book Review.

 

Click on the cover to buy the book.

This picture book is in 8 x 10″ format. There is a lot of blue space on the cover and the title script is difficult to read. A bright and lively, larger picture of the bear and a clear, bold title would create more interest. Inside, we page through 11 pages before we get to the actual story. It begins,

“Once upon a time, in the time when your grandparents were small, a little bear was made. He had a soft brown body and sad, pouty little face and he was waiting for a home.”

This is a great start for a children’s picture book. We are immediately concerned that the bear might not find a home because he is pouty. We also wonder why he has that expression.

Button Nose is finally taken home to “Little Girl” who loves him and brings him everywhere. The toy is forgotten in a restaurant but, thankfully, the family comes back for him. When the girl is beginning to grow up, her mother sells Button Nose in a yard sale. His new owner ignores him and Button Nose misses the girl. Eventually he is sold to a collector and kept in a cabinet. He is deeply sad, but then one day the bear is sold again. To his surprise, his new owner is Little Girl, now grown up. She puts him in a place of honour on her bed and loves him completely.

The story ends here and the rest of the book is a 12 page photo gallery (one picture per page) of the actual Little Girl (Gina Lobiondo), her parents, her family, and Button Nose followed by 10 pages advertising the author’s other books. The story itself is 12 pages long out of a total of 45 pages. Environmentalists might find this wasteful.

The story is charming, a little like Toy Story in that toys just want to be loved and played with, or at least loved and not forgotten. I like the underlying message that love never dies and appearances, such as a pouty face, are not judge the same by everyone. Adults will find this book sweetly nostalgic.

The illustrations, set in an oval shape below the text, seem to be drawn with pencil crayon and pen. They are well done but I felt that the pictures could have been larger considering all the white space left on each page. Button Nose is also a difficult character with which to show any emotion but sadness. His expression never changes. It would be interesting to have him smile when Little Girl wasn’t looking. His emotional landscape is trapped in a pout. I think children would wonder, with concern, why the bear was pouty in every situation and with every person. I do think the packaging needs to be rethought as well.

Any preschool child with a special cuddle toy could relate to this story.

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

The author will be interviewed on this blog April 5, 2017.

Pegasus, A Dragon’s Tale will be reviewed on January 16, 2017

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Golden Rule by Sherrill S. Cannon. Illustrated by Kalpart.

 

As appears evident from the title of this book, it is the type of text one would use with Sunday school children or perhaps young schoolchildren. The premise seemed interesting. “Robert and Kait decide to look for the Golden ruler that their Mom has told them about, only to find out that she meant rule instead of ruler.” I thought there would be more of a search and more humor involved. This search takes three of the eleven pages. I had anticipated that the search would connect and lead into the value of the Golden rule but the two sections are completely isolated.

While searching, Kait asks Rob if it might be a ruler they can’t see. He thinks for a minute and realizes that it is a rule. Then suddenly he begins to explain it.

“It’s not a school ruler, or measuring tool…

It’s a rule that you live by, to give and to share,

A way to treat others to show that you care.”

From that point on the book explains how to treat others properly. It talks about thinking with head and heart, sharing, dealing with bullies, paying it forward, inclusion, and honesty.

The story is written in rhyme which is always difficult to do well. The rhythm and beat suit this style of book and are mostly consistent. For example:

The rule is treat others the way you would like

For them to treat you, and treat all just alike.

The rule is not something that money can buy.

It’s more of a way to help feel good inside.

And thinking of others is also a part

Of that rule, which means thinking with head and with heart.

The illustrations are reminiscent of old comic books but the characters have large heads and small bodies. The author has worked to be diverse. Of the eight children four are girls, and two are of African descent.

I believe this book is suited to a church or group library. It’s not the kind of book that a child will ask to hear again and again. I was hoping the message would be a little more subtle but these books do have their place.

I was given a free paperback copy of this book to donate to my Little Free Library in exchange for an honest book review.

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Click on the cover to buy a copy.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

My Blue is Happy by Jessica Young. Illustrated by Catia Chien. Book Review.

I love books for children about color. But there are so many written, it is difficult to find someone who takes a new approach. Jessica Young and Catia Chien have accomplished that splendidly.

The book consists mostly of two page spreads comparing the little girl narrator’s feelings about colors to those of other people. It begins with a young girl playing guitar on a rock, her feet dangling in the water, while a child with goggles leaps happily into the pool. The words are:

My sister says that blue is sad

Like a lonely song.

But my blue is happy

Like my favorite jeans

And a splash in the pool on a hot day.

We instantly realize that this little girl has a positive outlook on life. But she is not consistently optimistic. Her mother believes yellow is cheery like the yellow sun but hers is a wilting flower and a butterfly caught in a net. As we read, our interest deepens. Her responses to color are not predictable. Her red is brave, pink is annoying, brown is special, green is old, orange is serious, gray is cozy, and black is peaceful.

This book is a wonderful introduction to a discussion of how color affects our emotions, but more importantly, how our emotions and attitudes affect our interpretations of color. For smaller children, of course, it’s just a wonderful way to discuss the world of color around them.

The illustrations are fairly simple but reflect the tone of the child narrator. It would have been a completely different book if the illustrations had been ostentatious and serious. The casual illustrations keep the material straightforward and relatable for children.

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Click on the covers to buy the books.

More books about color.

   

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Parental Love Shines Through: A Wonderful Day! by Michael Samulak. Illustrated by Louise Charm Pulvera. Book Review.

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Click here to buy A Wonderful Day!

A Wonderful Day! is a simple story of a parent and child going to the zoo. This book by Michael Samulak has a completely different appearance from his first. It is in the landscape format and uses pencil crayon and watercolor illustrations. Text is on one side of the page and the illustration is on the other.

During the story we are not told if it is a son or daughter and a mother or father who are going on the adventure together. I’m sure this is done deliberately in order to make the book relatable to any reader. The first page of text says, “Good morning, love! Rise and shine. How did you sleep? Do you remember what we are going to do today?” The accompanying illustration is of the front door and veranda of the simple two-story house. I don’t think that is something a reader can connect with. I really would have liked to see a sleepy eyed child, gender could be interpreted either way, rubbing his or her eyes, smiling, or leaping out of bed. The first illustration should link to the rest of the book and picture of the outside of the house really doesn’t. The rest of the illustrations are of animals or crowds so once again we feel a little distant. Near the end, however, when the text reads, “What a wonderful day. Thank you for sharing it with me. I will remember this day as long as I live!” We see the hands of the parent tucking in a brown-haired child with a teddy bear on the bed beside him or her.

On the animal pages, the text gives us a simple observation such as, “Look! There are the tigers and lions. They are so quiet and strong.” A picture of a smiling seated lion and a standing smiling tiger accompany these words. Nowhere in the book do we see cages, bars, or canopies. The closest it comes to reality are tiny circular concrete walls that enclose the elephants, giraffes, and penguins (who somehow have ice in their enclosure in the middle of an open area of the zoo.)

This is a lovely little story of a special moment between parent and child. In the past, I loved the zoo as well. I’m not sure at what age you need to introduce the reality of the small enclosures and loss of freedom for the animals. (Never mind the horrific circumstances under which these animals were captured.) I don’t want to get off on a tangent. Indeed, I’ve used zoo pictures in my own work. It’s a topic, however, that needs to be addressed at some point with children. When you consider the feeling this book gives the reader compared to the exceptionally beautiful first book (A is for Africa) where the author featured free African animals, there is a note of sadness that taints an otherwise happy little book. If you have no mixed feelings about the zoo, then this book will probably be pure pleasure.

Putting that aside, the text has a melodious, gentle tone almost like a lullaby. I like the way the text encourages conversation by stimulating a child to consider a question or concept. For example, “What animals do you think we will see first at the zoo?” Or “Wow! That must be the tall giraffe. I wonder how they drink with such long necks.”

The last page sweetly reads, “Good night. Sleep tight. Never forget that you are loved.”

This book would be enjoyed by children aged 2 to 5.

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

Older books for your child.

  
The author was interviewed on this blog  January 11, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Cara’s Kindness by Christie Yamaguchi. Illustrated by John Lee. Book Review.

 

This gentle picture book is written by Kristi Yamaguchi, a famous figure skater well known for her modesty and generosity of spirit. So, of course, she would write a picture book that shows kindness is always the best choice.

The characters in this book are anthropomorphized animals. Cara, a cat and a figure skater, is known for her kindness to others. When she sees a dog too timid to go out on the ice, she teaches him to skate.  When he thanks her, she says, “just pass on the kindness.” He does by sharing his lunch with the polar bear. The dog then asks the polar bear to, “just pass on the kindness.” The kindness is passed on to the monkey, then the skunk, and then the mole passes it on to Cara. In a beautifully karmic circle, Cara performs her best skating presentation as a result.

The story ends with the following.

“Cara was so happy! She knew that caring and passing on a small kindness, one good deed at a time, had come full circle right back to her. Caring makes a big difference.”

Yes, the book is a bit preachy but it would be well used by teachers and leaders of children’s groups to explain how even the littlest action causes ripples throughout the world.

The illustrations are suitable full-color cartoonlike characters. The expressions are shown in a simple manner.

I didn’t think my granddaughter would want to hear the story a second time, but she did. She enjoyed the way the kindness played through the circle and back to Cara. She also liked how the characters treated each other.

I was very pleased to win an advanced copy of this book for review.

CLICK ON THE BOOK COVER TO PURCHASE A COPY FROM AMAZON.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A Prickle of Porcupines. Think You Know Animal Groups? – Herds of Birds Oh How Absurd! by S.J. Bushue and Deb McQueen.

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Click here to buy Herds of Birds Oh How Absurd!

This is a bilingual picture book, English and Spanish. It begins:

“Cattle roam in herds, but not a covey of quail.

El Ganado Vaga en rebaῆos, pero no un grupo de perdices.

Cranes stroll in herds, but not a tower of giraffes.”

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. I’ve always loved a flamboyance of flamingos and a prickle of porcupines but a charm of hummingbirds is a new term for me.

The vocabulary is quite rich even for children with English as a first language. However, adults reading to children whose first language is Spanish could concentrate on the names of the animals. Adults will probably not tire of this book very quickly as it would be an enjoyable challenge to learn all the collective nouns.

If you go to the website http://www.thelittlefig.com you will find a song to accompany the book. It’s an excellent sticky jingle, however, you must reinforce that the child not stop after the words, “Do we say herds of birds?” but continues on to sing, “No, how absurd. Birds don’t fly in a herd but a flock.” There are downloadable coloring sheets that match some of the pictures in the book. There is also a video of the book being read in Spanish.

The illustrations are created with solid chunks of color and black outlines. On some of the pages animals are behaving like animals, but on some the illustrator has chosen to emphasize the collective noun. For example the business of ferrets is taking notes on the stock market, working on the computer, and checking a watch while carrying a briefcase. Hamsters (horde) are hoarding buttons and spools of thread. The flamingo (flamboyance) is carrying a fancy fan and a feathered headpiece. The alligators (congregation) are singing hymns. In other pictures the animals are playing soccer, being flagged in for a landing, carrying an umbrella and wearing sunglasses, or evaluating each other’s jumps. This humorous illustration leads well into discussion.

Even without the second language, this is a valuable book to share with children from 3 to 10 years old.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Exclusion Hurts Everyone: Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow by Salvatore Barbera. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow

This is a story about the acceptance of differences similar to Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches but more apparent. When Mary Elizabeth arrives at a farm in Ohio, the other cows reject her because she doesn’t have spots. During the night she creates her own spots with mud. The next day the other cows cheer and then spend the day playing with her. That night, she washes off the spots. The other cows don’t know what to think.

“Here’s the thing.” said Mary Elizabeth. “You all liked me with spots. We had fun. We frolicked. Played poker. And not once did you think about me having spots.” Anna Belle realized that Mary Elizabeth was right. Spots don’t make a cow.

The cows, in support and shame for their previous behavior, call a Spotless Cow Day where they whiteout all their own spots. Then all the cows dance and sing and play forever. (Obviously, it isn’t forever. Don’t mention the farmer’s gruesome plans for them.)

The illustrations, words and style suits a very young child so I would have used white paint instead of whiteout but that is being picky. There are also a few humorous asides but it is apparent that these are for the parents’ benefit. These are quite clever.

Well, Anna Belle and the other Cows were horrified. (Not mad, you had to be very careful about mad.)

There is the occasional punctuation error, a missing period here, a missing quotation mark there. But, the text flows smoothly with just enough on each page to maintain a child’s interest.

The illustrations, unfortunately, do not match the quality of the writing. The cows are two-legged oddities. The background, which was done by Sheri H. Barbara, is composed of computer graphics stamps. These aren’t too bad but they only draw attention to the awkward cows. However, some readers may like their quirkiness.

This is a picture book worth sharing with your child. It is funny, endearing, and ethical.

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The author was interviewed on this blog on January 18, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages