Hilarious and Sweet – Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Shh! We Have a Plan

This unusual book is surprisingly addictive. It is such a joy to come across something so unique.

The illustrations appear to be cut and paste, done mostly in blue, purple, and black. The only exceptions are the birds.

Four oddly shaped characters, three with tassels on their hats and the smallest with a pom-pom, set out to catch a wild bird. The three oldest have nets, a cage and “plans”. However, this is a clear example of the best laid plans…

The text has a clear pattern that the youngest child will easily repeat. It begins, “Look! A bird.” The littlest one says, “Hello, birdie.” The largest says, “shh.” The next says, “SHH!” The last says, “We have a plan.” This is repeated every time they spot a bird. Then they initiate their plan, which varies slightly from tiptoeing to climbing slowly to paddling slowly, all without success. Each time they count down, “Ready one. Ready too. Ready three… Go!” Whereupon, calamity falls upon the characters and the bird flies away.

After three disastrous attempts to capture a bird, the three older characters come upon the littlest one hand feeding them. They count down again only to be intimidated by the angry birds. They run away in fear. At this point, the reader thinks they’ve learned their lesson. But, the third character begins a new drama with, “Look! A squirrel.”

Children will be delighted with the building tension, the silly plans, and the escape of the birds. Parents can discuss with their child what might occur as the characters try to capture a squirrel. As well, the cruelty of caging a wild bird can be broached.

This book is hilarious. With each reading, child and adults can improve their expression and appreciation. It gets better each time. So much so that the adult doesn’t mind, “Read it again. Read it again.”

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Opposites are Different

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Be sure to check out the first video in a series about opposites. Itlittle uses graphics and songs relevant to children. There will be five new pairs of opposites in each video.

Suitable for ages 3-7.

 

I will be posting the words to the songs. (I know I’m a little raspy and off-key. One of the challenges of Parkinson’s.)

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Social Skill Wrapped in Hilarity: Bossy Flossy written and illustrated by Paulette Bogan. Book Review.

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Click here to buy Bossy Flossy

It is such a great feeling when I find a picture book that both my granddaughter and I enjoy. Bossy Flossy had turned us into Paulette Bogan fans by the third page.

Flossy butts heads with everyone, including her toys. The book begins with Flossy standing in the middle of her bedroom telling all her toys what to do. With one hand on her hip and the other pointing, she demands, “Sit up straight. Look at me. Listen to me. Pay attention. Do what I tell you.” She is bossy to her cat, her little brother, and even her mother.

Although flossy is a simple, cartoonish character, her big wild red hair, her dramatic gestures, and her expressive face make her a real person and a force to be reckoned with.

Flossy does not understand that she is being bossy. When she is sent to her room, she tells herself, “I’m not bossy. Mom is bossy. She always tells me what to do. She never listens to me. I’m just trying to tell her something.” We realize that Flossy doesn’t see herself the way others do. As well, we aren’t sure about her interpretation of her mother’s behavior. Maybe Mom is bossy. At times, it seems as though Flossie is trying to be helpful but is unaware of the effect her behavior has on others. She tells a classmate how to paint and then takes the press and draw the line on her artwork. She orders another classmate to wear a hat she has chosen to complete his dress-up costume.

When a new boy, Edward, joins her class, Flossy meets her match in the overbearing department. Frustrated, Flossie challenges Edward but he doesn’t back down. The argument escalates until they are both sent to timeout. There, they agreed to stop bossing others. They both improve and become great friends.

Although it might sound like a didactic book, it really isn’t. Bogan disarms us completely with humor and charm. Children might identify with Flossy’s problem but will find her behavior intriguing and silly. If you have an overly dominant child, I would avoid discussing bossiness immediately after reading this. It is such a delightful book, you wouldn’t want to spoil it. After reading it a couple of times, you might want to bring up the difference between being bossy and being helpful, taking turns, listening to others, and so on. In my home, “Bossy Flossy” has become a code that can make either my granddaughter or myself stop and think about how our words sound to the other person. Even if you don’t have a bossy member in your family, this book can be just pure fun to read.

The illustrations are interesting in that they appear to be drawn individually, cut out and arranged on the page. This could be a fun art activity to do with your child. You can both draw and cut out several different characters and then arrange them into different story scenes.

Highly recommended both for fun and value.

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An interview with the author, Paulette Bogan, will be posted on this blog, March 8, 2017.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

L M N O Peas by Keith Baker. Book Review.

Click here to buy LMNO Peas

This is an adorable, funny alphabet book. It is difficult to come up with original ideas for the ABCs. Amazon.com listed 47,112 results in a search for alphabet books.  Keith Baker has designed a unique one using his Peas series.

The picture book’s large size emphasizes the tininess of the adorable little peas who are acting out each of the letters. For example, A has seven little peas with hoops climbing up the letter A that say, “We’re acrobat’s.” One lonely little pea is painting a tulip that is twice his size. Two other peas are conducting a spacewalk from a capsule (astronauts).

Children will enjoy finding the peas on each page and deciphering their occupation or hobby. The artist has cleverly incorporated the letters into the activities. For example the right side of the K is a river for kayakers. The book ends with, “We are peas from A to Z. now tell us, please… (Turn the page) who are you?

This book will definitely engage readers. The pictures post just enough challenge to keep both children and adults interested throughout. The fun thing is, peas are so easy to draw, that children could make their own response using their initials and their own hobbies or interests.

If the child is too young to draw the illustration, give their thumb in green fingerpaint and have them press on the “peas”. Then an adult can add the detail. Together, you can decide what to draw based on the letter. It can be simple. After, if the child wants, she can colour the letter with marker.

K peas B peas

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Top Ten Picture Books I Reviewed in 2016 – #1 to 3

 Click on the cover to buy the book.

#1 Priceless Penny by Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf. Illustrated by James Sell.

The cover of this book catches your eye right away. It features a bright picture of a large eye dog, ears up, tongue hanging out, grin on her goofy little face. Then you notice that her left paw is deformed. When you open the book you see a beautiful illustration of a dog in a cage sleeping on her back.

If this story doesn’t put a lump in your throat, go to the author’s website and see the actual pictures of Penny and the other rescued dogs. This book has all the more punch when you realize it is basically a true story.

Not only does this book teach children to be compassionate to animals and accept them for the way they are, but I am sure that children are smart enough to draw a parallel into their own lives. There is so much valuable subject matter to discuss with your child after reading this book.
 Click on the cover to buy the book.

#2 Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden. Illustrated by Renata Liwska.

The story lends itself well to a discussion of beginnings, changes, and cause and effect. The words are lyrical, even poetic. This beautiful book pulls you in and leaves you feeling that you have been touched by something precious.

 Click on the cover to buy the book.
#3 Today the Teacher Changed our Seats by Frances Gilbert. Illustrated by Ben Quesnel.

The paintings in this book have unique quality of expressiveness and subtle detail. The little green-eyed girl who is telling the story is not your picture perfect child. She has a turned up nose, big bushy eyebrows, and rather large ears which make her all the more lovable. Her emotion is transparently portrayed and we connect with her fear of not belonging in any group. The class is a diverse group of children and the teacher is African-American.

While this book can be used as an introduction to math groupings, it is also a good launching pad for discussion about inclusion and how we label people into certain categories. It is a short, simple book that carries a lot of weight.

The rest of the list, #4 to 10, is here.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Top Ten Picture Books I reviewed in 2016 – #4 to 10

 Click on the cover to buy the book.

#4 Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! By David MacPhail.

So few writers can write well in rhyme that some publishers refuse to even look at rhyming books. It is a difficult style to accomplish but David MacPhail does it with finesse.

The message of forgiveness, inclusion, and unconditional love is humorously portrayed. Don’t be surprised if your child says, “Read it again” when you turn the last page.

#5 – A is for Africa written by Michael I. Samulak. Illustrated by Sswaga Sendiba.

I love when I discover a unique and interesting picture book. A is for Africa stands alone in my experience. There is a fascinating story of the creation of this book especially as it pertains to the ethnic gorgeous illustrations. I love how the author totally avoided any misappropriation by involving an African artist in his project.

#6 – Once Upon a Pond by Peter Simon.

The author explains what is happening in detail, providing statistics such as “Over the many years since Europeans began coming to North America, Canada has lost more than 70% of its original wetlands.” He describes the importance of wetlands to wildlife and to clean water.

#7 – The Diggers are Coming! by Susan Steggall.

The author has given just enough information to hold a child’s interest and teach them some new concepts. The onomatopoeic word usage is wonderful and children will enjoy repeating some of the phrases. Highly recommended for boys and girls ages 2 to 7.

#8 – Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Meg Hunt.

Cinderella is a self-taught mechanic who wants to fix fancy rockets.

Cinderella is a redhead and the Prince is a man of color. The painted illustrations are large and bright. There is no mention of Cinderella’s physical appearance. In fact, the prince never saw her face as she wore her spacesuit through their entire first encounter.

This book has all the right messages and would make a great addition to a child’s book shelf.

#9 – Piggies in the Kitchen by Michelle Meadows. Illustrated by Ard Hoyt.

The story is delightfully suspenseful. At first the reader wonders if the piggies are up to mischief. Then the arrival of three different vehicles add a special twist. When the story ends “Happy Birthday, Mama! We love you!” The reader appreciates the piggies’ efforts to create a perfect surprise.

#10 – The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin. Illustrated by David Shannon.

CLICK ON THE COVERS TO BUY THE BOOKS

The top three picture books will be posted Dec. 31.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Perfect Merge of Two Cultures: A is for Africa written by Michael I. Samulak. Illustrated by Sswaga Sendiba. Book Review.

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Click here to buy A is for Africa

I love when I discover a unique and interesting picture book. A is for Africa stands alone in my experience. There is a fascinating story of the creation of this book especially as it pertains to the ethnic gorgeous illustrations. I love how the author totally avoided any misappropriation by involving an African artist in his project. The account is worth reading and will be available on my blog interview with the author, Michael I. Samulak, January 11, 2017. As a Canadian, a retired elementary school teacher, and a grandmother to two girls of Anishinabe heritage, I am highly conscious of the cultural appropriation of the indigenous people. It is difficult to walk that line between cultural appropriation and appreciation. Samulak showed respect and admiration for the African people by hiring a Ugandan artist, Sswaga Sendiba, whose work he had admired.

Each page features a batik style of illustration that was popular in the 60s in North America. Batik uses wax and paint to create one-of-a-kind pictures. If you tried to copy Sendiba’s work, in all likelihood the wax would not behave in the same way. It is a detailed and difficult process as I remember. Personally, I could never control the flow of the wax well enough to make anything recognizable. Sendiba had been doing this style of artwork for 10 years when Samulak connected with him.

Samulak chose animals, landscape, people, and items representational of Uganda for each letter of the alphabet. Read, orange, and yellow a predominant colors throughout the book giving the reader the sensation of hot, dry savannas. It begins, “A is for Africa. Africa is an awesome land, as we soon shall see. It is home to many amazing animals, people, and trees.” Both the artist and the writer prove that claim.

This is the kind of book that adults enjoy as much, possibly more, then the children. It is definitely the kind of book you should share together as it will arouse many questions from children unfamiliar with African animals. Although Samulak shares some unusual information, he encapsulates it in a form children would find interesting. For example, “C is for cheetah. Swift is a cheetah, so it is said both near and far. Running at top speed, these cats can keep up with your car.” Instead of saying the giraffe is the tallest land animal, he writes, “G is for giraffe. The giraffe is the gentle giant of the land. She stands head and shoulders above every animal or man.” He features some animals children may be unfamiliar with such as the Ibis, kob, pygmy chimpanzee, tilapia fish, crowned Crane, and yellow mongoose.

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As well, you can purchase and A is for Africa Coloring Book because of the batik style, this is not your typical coloring book. I would recommend using soft pastels or pencil crayons in order to imitate the painted look of the original illustrations. Marker might work if they could blend easily. Watercolor would be perfect but it would bleed through to the picture on the other side. This should be an interesting variation for adults who have adopted the coloring book craze.

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Click here to buy A is for Africa: Coloring Book

A follow-up activity for a classroom would be to assign a letter to each student and have them do a batik picture for their own country.

As a parent, you could have your child do their first initial with things they like to begin with the same letter. For very small children, just doing the letter is enough challenge. Draw it with pencil and have them squeeze the glue over top.

Here are two great pages that will show you how to do batik safely with children using glue instead of wax.

That Artist Woman

The Artful Parent

I will be reviewing Michael I. Samulak’s newest book, A Wonderful Day!, on January 30, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Is Different Bad? Frog Has No Fur (La Rana No Tiene Pelo) by S. J. Bushue and Deb McQueen. Book Review.

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 Click here to buy “Frog Has No Fur”: “La Rana No Tiene Pelo”

(So Big & Little Bit Adventures)

This is a bilingual picture book. Unfortunately, I cannot read Spanish so I am only reviewing the English part.

So Big, a mammal, and Little Bit, a frog are friends even though they are not alike. The text explains their differences: brown and green, fur and no fur, mammal and amphibian, lives on land and lives on land and water, active during the day and active during the night, a heart with four chambers and a heart with three chambers, ears and only eardrums, focusing eyes and whole eye turning, first to walk on land and walking on land 100 million years later.

It ends with:

We do not have to be the same. We are friends… Just because we like each other.

The fictional message is about acceptance of differences but, as the child reads, an enormous amount of factual detail is presented. (I didn’t even know about the heart chambers.) There could be two types of follow-up discussions to this book. One could be about relationships and differences. Two could be about the animal kingdom and classification. Of course, the parent should try to draw out the fact that the child is also a mammal and not an amphibian.

The illustrations are big, black outlined, colorful, and simple. They have a happy, fun quality.

If you go to this page on The Little Fig website, you will find a coloring page you can download, a link to the accompanying song on YouTube, and the YouTube link to the book being read aloud in Spanish.

This is a wonderful product that addresses a need in picture books. Check out their other bi-lingual books while you’re there.

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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 on November 30, 2016.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Who Would Adopt a Dog Like That? – Priceless Penny by Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf. Illustrated by James Sell. Book Review.

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Click here to buy Priceless Penny

The cover of this book catches your eye right away. It features a bright picture of a large eye dog, ears up, tongue hanging out, grin on her goofy little face. Then you notice that her left paw is deformed. When you open the book you see a beautiful illustration of a dog in a cage sleeping on her back.

It begins:

“Today is the day,” thought Penny excitedly.

It was adoption day at the shelter and she just knew that she was going to find her forever home.

From this point on, the reader is hooked. Every time a prospective owner views Penny, the response is negative. An elderly woman calls her a poor little thing. Two little girls say, “Ew. We don’t want her!” Two teenage boys call her ugly, weird, and a loser as they make fun of all his different physical features. Penny is not adopted and she despairs of ever being loved.

In the end, Penny is rescued by Sherri and taken to Second Chance Animal Rescue in Springfield, Illinois. From there she is brought to Lauren’s home where she is accepted by the other dogs, some with challenges of their own.

The story ends:

Penny was so happy!

Not only was she being adopted, but she was going to have for furry friends to play with.

And a family who loves her…… Just exactly the way that she is.

If this story doesn’t put a lump in your throat, go to the author’s website and see the actual pictures of Penny and the other rescued dogs. This book has all the more punch when you realize it is basically a true story. On the back cover is a picture of the actual Penny.

Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf includes a page of rescued dogs with the words:

These are the faces of rescue. Please adopt your next furry friend from your local animal shelter or rescue group. Together, we can show the world that different is beautiful!

Not only does this book teach children to be compassionate to animals and accept them for the way they are, but I am sure that children are smart enough to draw a parallel into their own lives. There is so much valuable subject matter to discuss with your child after reading this book. I love that it addresses the horrible reality of the euthanasia of unwanted pets but does so in a positive, uplifting and inspiring manner.

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The author was interviewed on this blog November 23, 2016.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages