The Cat Who Loved to Swim by LeAnne Miller. Illustrated by Linda Manthey. Book Review.

The Cat Who Loved to Swim features a feline, Casper, who is being mocked by his friends for swimming. They tell him that cats don’t behave like that. Then, they each realize they are unique in some way. The goat likes gymnastics. The donkey sings. The monkey plays violin. Casper convinces them to compete in the Big Swimming Show even though they can’t swim. He pulls them on a raft while they display their special talents. The judges award them “most unique”. Casper ends with, “It’s fun and OK when you go your own way!”

This is a great message. Accept your friends as they are. Accept and be proud of your own unique skills.

Unfortunately, the book was written in rhyme, a challenge for any writer. The rhythm is unsteady, the rhyming pattern changes throughout, and some unusual words are used to fit the rhyming, such as “faux-pas”. This makes the book difficult to read aloud smoothly and with expression. Subsequently, it is difficult to maintain a child’s interest.

If you choose to write in rhyme, which is seldom needed, try reading it aloud and tapping to the beat. Then give it to someone who has never seen the book before and ask them to do the same. If either of you are stumbling, the rhyming isn’t working.

The illustrations are noteworthy. I think they are done with computer graphics but they have the feel of cut and paste shapes. With the simplest of pictures, Linda Manthey conveys wonderful charm and emotion.

This book has so much potential but does not truly fulfill it because of the difficulties of writing in rhyme. The story is cute and worthwhile, however. It’s worth taking a look.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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New Cinderella Video.

A new video of the story of Cinderella is available on my YouTube site Bonnie Ferrante – Making Reading and Learning Fun. It is made using Legos, Little People, and graphics. After your child watches it, encourage him or her to act out the story using toys or dress up. Here is the script for reference but don’t make the child follow it. Let them tell the story  at their own level.

You are welcome to use the video or script in any non-commercial way. Please give credit to the author.

The Link https://youtu.be/pOnVMoNC4FY

THE SCRIPT

Long ago when there was still magic in the world, a young girl named Ella lost first her Mama and then her Papa. Papa had remarried into the Less family, who seemed nice, at the beginning.

Ella did worry, however, about the cruel way they treated animals. You can learn a lot about people by the way they treat animals. Ella fed the birds and rabbits in the winter. She groomed the old mare every day and if she did not have time to ride her. she let her loose to run at will. Ella was kind to the hen. The Less family, however, would kick the hen she was underfoot. They thought it was funny to throw rocks at birds and rabbits. The animals soon learned to hide it from everyone except Ella.

But the Less family did not show how awful they really were until Papa was gone. Papa’s ship sank in a terrible storm in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. All his fortune was on board and so Ella lost her father and all their wealth as well.

Grace, her stepmother, was furious. She had a beautiful old house but no money to spend. She moved Ella to the attic and treated her like the most unfortunate servant on earth. Since Ella’s stepmother bullied her, her two stepsisters Virtue and Mercy Less were even crueller.

Grace: “Sweep the floors and then wash them.”

But as soon as Ella was finished, Virtue walked through with muddy shoes.

Grace: “Do the dishes and clean up the kitchen.”

But as soon as Ella finished, Mercy made a snack leaving breadcrumbs, spilled milk, sticky fingerprints and dirty dishes scattered around the room.

Grace: “Clean up Virtue’s bedroom. Then clean up Mercy’s.”

As soon as Ella finished cleaning Mercy’s room, Virtue’s was already a mess again.

Grace: You did a terrible job of cleaning up the bedroom. What you doing with all your time?

Virtue and Mercy did nothing all day but play with their makeup and their hair, eat, and look through catalogs for stylish new clothes.

Virtue: “Mother,”I want a new gown. Nothing I have is in style anymore.”

Mercy: “Mother, I want new shoes. Nothing I have is in style anymore.”

So Grace would sell something from Ella’s home, an heirloom clock, a silver plate, or a brooch from Ella’s mother’s jewelry box. It broke Ella’s heart to see all her family things being sold away but if she said anything, Grace would lock her in the attic and not allow her to eat for a day.

Ella did not want more things to be sold, but  when her toes were peeking through her shoes, she said, “Grace, could I have some new shoes? Mine are worn out.”

Grace: “Do you think money grows on trees? If I hadn’t been foolish enough to marry your father, I wouldn’t have to be living in squalor. If you want shoes, buy them yourself.”

Ella: “But I have no money.”

Grace: “Well, I guess I’ll have to sell something then.”

Ella cringed. She didn’t want anything else sold away but she really needed shoes.

One day she came back from working in the garden. Ella saw two men carrying her bed away.

Ella: “Grace, where are they going with my bed?”

Grace opened her hand and took out a few coins. She gave them to Ella. “That’s more than enough for shoes. Don’t ask me for any more money for at least a year.”

Ella: “But what will I do without a bed? It’s freezing in the attic.”

Grace: “I’m sure you’ll figure something out.”

So Ella slept in front of the fireplace in the kitchen. Every morning she woke with ashes on her skin as well as burn marks on her dress.

When she brought breakfast to her family, Grace said, “You’re filthy. Your dress is full of holes. It’s a good thing I’m not wasting any more money on you since can’t even take care of what you have.”

Ella: “I can’t help it. The cinders pop out of the fireplace and spread all over.”

Virtue: “Poor cinder girl.”

Mercy: “Poor Cinder Ella.”

Mercy and Virtue: “Cinder Ella. Cinderella.”

That was her name from that moment on but Cinderella didn’t care. One day a message came from the palace. Grace shouted for her daughters, “Listen to this. All unmarried women and their chaperones are invited to come to the palace tomorrow night for a grand ball. The Prince is of marrying age and hopes to meet his future bride.”

(Virtue and Mercy squeal with delight.)

Virtue: “What will we wear?”

Mercy: “Everything we have is out of date.”

Grace: “I have a surprise I have been keeping from you just in case something like this happened. I have enough fabric for three beautiful dresses. Cinderella. You’re going to have to sew quickly and get three dresses ready by tomorrow.”

Cinderella: “Of course, Grace. I will sew us the prettiest dresses the prince will ever see.”

Grace: “Us? You’re not getting any of this fabric. I’ve already spent a fortune on you.”

Cinderella: “But you said three beautiful dresses.”

Grace: “One for Virtue, one for Mercy, and one for me, their chaperone.”

Cinderella: “What will I wear?”

Grace: “That is your problem. I told you I wasn’t going to spend any more money on you. Now go set up the sewing machine. The girls and I will decide what kind of dresses we want you to make.”

Cinderella nodded, trying not to cry. When she left, Virtue and Mercy turned to their mother.

Virtue: “You’re not going to let her go in rags, are you? She’ll embarrass us.”

Grace: “I don’t think you have to worry about that. She’s too proud to show up at the palace looking like a beggar.”

Mercy: “I’ll get the catalogs so we can pick designs for our dresses.”

Cinderella sewed three beautiful dresses. She worked all night and most of the next day. Just before supper, she finished the dresses and gave them to Grace and her stepsisters. They squealed with delight and went off to fix their hair and makeup. Cinderella went to the attic and took her mother’s dress out of the trunk.

Cinderella: “Perhaps I can make this dress a little more stylish.”

But instead of sewing, fell asleep at the table. An owl appeared at the window. He hooted and hooted again, but poor exhausted Cinderella did not awake

The bird flew away and then returned. One by one, rabbits, birds, the hen, and even the house cat made their way through the window or up the back stairs to the attic. They took the dress and did their best to make it into something beautiful. Love is a special magic that makes exceptional things possible.

Cinderella woke just as her stepsisters and stepmother  were preparing to leave.  “Oh no. I fell asleep.”

She rubbed her tired eyes and looked up at the lovely dress her animal friends had sewn.  “What? How did that happen?”

Virtue: “Hurry up, Mercy.”

Cinderella dressed quickly. She rushed down the stairs just as her family was about to leave.

Cinderella: “Wait for me.”

They turned and their eyes narrowed.

Grace: “Where did you get that dress?”

Cinderella: “It was my mother’s.”

Virtue: “That’s why it looks so old fashioned.”

Mercy: “The lace is ridiculous.”

Grace: “Girls, Perhaps you could help her fix it.”

Virtue and Mercy step forward and tore Cinderella’s dress into rags.

Grace: “Oh, how unfortunate. That didn’t help at all. Well, let’s go ladies.”

(Laughter.)

Cinderella ran through the house, out the back door, and into the garden. She sat down on a bench and cried. Her animal friends crept around her. Cinderella wiped her eyes.

Cinderella: “Who wants to go on a silly old ball anyway? It would be filled with mean and snobbish women. I’m much better off here with my animal friends.”

Fairy: “Are you sure you don’t want to go?”

Cinderella: “Who are you?”

Fairy: “I am your fairy godmother. You probably don’t remember your mother but she wasn’t an ordinary woman. She was my half-sister. She made me promise not to spoil you with magic but I think she would agree that this is a special moment.”

Cinderella: “What do you mean?”

Fairy: “I mean, it’s time for you to go to the ball. Now listen carefully. Get the pumpkin from the garden and bring it here.”

Cinderella did not understand but she did what she was asked. The fairy godmother turned the pumpkin into a beautiful coach.

Fairy: “Now we need a horse. Your mare is a little too old and small to pull such a heavy coach. I wonder if any of your animal friends would volunteer.”

“Meow.”

Cinderella: “Thank you.”

(The fairy godmother changes the cat into a beautiful white horse.)

Fairy: “You need a driver and a footman.”

(Two rabbits hop up and the fairy godmother uses her magic.)

Fairy: “All right my dear, off you go.”

Cinderella: “But what about my dress?”

Fairy: “That was your mother’s, wasn’t it? However did it get so ragged?”

Cinderella: “My stepsisters tore it to pieces when they saw me in it.”

Fairy: “If you don’t mind, I’d like to give you a brand-new one.”

Cinderella: “That would be wonderful.”

(Changes dress.)

Fairy: “Now off you go but there is a limit to my magic. When the clock strikes midnight, everything will turn back to the way it was. Make sure you leave before then.”

Cinderella: “I will, I will, thank you so much. I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me.”

Fairy: “All right, dear, time to go. I want you to get as much fun as you can out of tonight.”

(Cinderella travels to the ball.)

The Prince was bored. He had met all the ladies at the ball and none of them interested him. Then a new lady walked in.

(Cinderella and the Prince look at each other. He walks toward her. They dance.)

 

Prince: “So, Princess, tell me about yourself.”

Cinderella: “I’m not a princess. I’m just an ordinary girl.”

Prince: “What do ordinary girls like to do for fun?”

Cinderella: “I’m afraid I don’t have much time for fun. My parents died, I have to take care of my stepmother and stepsisters. The house is a lot of work. But I don’t mind. They would be lost without me. They really don’t know how to do anything for themselves.”

Prince: “Beautiful, kind, hard-working, and skilled. You certainly aren’t like the other ladies I’ve danced with. Not ordinary in my world.”

The Prince danced with Cinderella for the rest of the night. One by one the ladies realized he had lost interest in anyone else.

(Clock strikes 12.)

Cinderella: “Midnight! I didn’t realize it was so late. I have to leave.

Prince: “Wait. I didn’t even ask your name. I thought we had more time.”

As Cinderella raced out the doors she lost one of her glass slippers. The Prince picked it up and looked at it thoughtfully.

Cinderella made it home just in time. Soon after her stepmother and stepsisters arrived.

Grace: What a ridiculous waste of time.

Virtue: He didn’t even dance with any other girls once the Princess arrived.

Mercy: Did you notice how much she looked like Cinderella?

All three women stared at Cinderella who could not keep the big smile off her face.

Grace: Shouldn’t you be in bed by now? And why are you still wearing that ridiculous dress?”

Cinderella:” Good night everyone. Have sweet dreams. I know I will.”

The next day there was banging on the door.

Cinderella: I will get it.

Grace looked out the window. “No, Mercy you get the door. Cinderella, come with me.”

She locked Cinderella in the attic.

Cinderella: “Why are you doing this?”

Grace: Be absolutely quiet or I will leave you locked up here for a week.”

Grace hung the key on a nail beside the door. Downstairs, the prince and his servant entered.

Servant: Under the command of His Royal Highness, Prince Thomas, every single girl in the kingdom must try on this glass slipper.

Virtue: Isn’t that the shoe the lady wore who danced with the prince last night?

Grace (entering): Of course it is. Now put on your shoe Virtue.

Virtue: Oh, oh, of course.

(She tries and fails.)

Grace: Silly me, that was Mercy’s shoe. Put it on my beautiful daughter.

(She tries and fails.)

Neither could fit the shoe.

Servant: Are there any other single ladies?

Grace: Well, there’s me. I’m an unfortunate widow. I could try it on.

Prince: That won’t be necessary.

Upstairs, the cat leaped for the key. He shoved it under the door.  Cinderella unlocked it and ran down the stairs.

Cinderella: Wait, please, wait.

Prince: I thought you said there were no more single ladies.

Grace: She’s just a worthless servant.

Prince: She looks very familiar.

He took the slipper from the servant and put it on Cinderella. Her fairy godmother appeared and gave her back her beautiful dress.

Prince: It is you.

Cinderella: My name is Cinderella. This was my father’s home.

Cinderella told the prince everything about her step-family.

She and the Prince became engaged. They wanted to get to know each other so they set the wedding date for a year ahead.

Prince: During this year, you and your daughters will be Cinderella’s servants. You will keep the house clean, including her room. You will feed her and do everything she asks. I will send a dressmaker to makes clothes for her and her alone. Grace Less, you will move out of her parents’ bedroom and Cinderella will move in. You will sleep in the attic. If, on our wedding day, a year from now, Cinderella tells me that any of you made her unhappy in any way, I will put burning hot iron shoes on your feet and make you walk through town. Do you understand?

Lesses: Yes, Your Highness.

At the end of the year, Cinderella’s stepsister’s helped her put on her wedding dress. Grace refused to come to the wedding.

Mercy: I want to say I’m sorry for the way we treated you. I know now how awful we were.

Virtue: We acted just like our mother and didn’t think about you at all. I’m sorry too.

Cinderella: All is forgiven. Now, try to have some fun today. There are lots of single men coming to the wedding.

The wedding was beautiful. Cinderella threw the bouquet and Snow White caught it. The cake was delicious. And her stepsisters made new friends.

Cinderella and the prince lived happily ever after.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Milton the Christmas Moose by Steve and Jean Goodwin. Illustrated by Loanna Philippou. Book Review.

This book was written to teach children the importance of kindness, inclusion, forgiveness, and the spirit of Christmas. Milton has one antler smaller than the other and one leg shorter than the other. Like Rudolph, he is teased and excluded by his species. However he makes friends with all the other animals, helps them as much as possible, and encourages them to help each other. Because of this, Rudolph comes to visit him and brings him to see Santa. Santa grants him a wish. Milton wishes to be green with red antlers to remind people to keep Christmas in their hearts 365 days a year. This triggers a realization in the other moose who treat him differently from then on.
This book is obviously written for very young children, those who still believe in Santa and Rudolph. However it is a little long and challenging for children of this age. Parents could read it to them and explain some of the words and concepts.
Throughout the story we see that small kindnesses make a big difference in animal’s lives. This book lends itself well to discussions on how children can help others and make the world a better place through their small achievements.
I thought the new colour choice of red and green was a little weak as a catalyst for change by the other moose. Rudolph is accepted by the other reindeer because of his monumental achievement of saving Christmas and being exactly what Santa needed when the others were unable to help him. I felt this story needed a little more umph for the turning point. I was hoping for something new but it seem to be basically an echo of the Rudolph story.
The illustrations are cute, wonky watercolors. They are colourful and cheerful, however the illustration of Santa Claus was a little jarring and out of place.
At the end of the book it tells the reader to check out the Christmas song on a website. When you go there, this song is for purchase only and I couldn’t figure out a way to hear any of it.
A sweet, heart-warming book that encourages good values but doesn’t have the impact of Rudolph.

Bear Hockey by Jessica Boyd. Illustrated by Maurizio Curto. Book Review.

This adorable 11 x 8″ picture book will be loved by boys and girls alike. A grey squirrel narrates the story which begins, “Good afternoon, sports fans!…It’s so cold that… The pond is frozen!… That means is the perfect time for Bear Hockey!” The squirrel explains that all bears, once a year, “strap on their helmets, lace up their skates, and pick up their hockey sticks” to participate in bear hockey.

The rules are:

  1. You use many pinecones instead of one puck.
  2. You high-five all the players and spectators multiple times before you start playing.
  3. You take frequent, frequent, frequent honey breaks.
  4. When the last pinecone is scored, it’s time for hibernation!

The emphasis throughout the book is on fun and camaraderie.

The bears wear a variety of colored sweatshirts.  Even though the squirrel announces at one point that the teams are tied, it seems there is only one goalie.

The illustrations are wonderful. Not an inch of space is left empty on any page. The text is superimposed on the busy illustrations. Bears of all sizes play together. Smiles are rampant. The pictures gleam with personality. The bears would make precious stuffed toys.

The littlest bear scores the winning goal (I think everybody won).

After all the excitement, the bears “brush their honey-covered teeth and comb their matted fur and snuggle under the covers for a few quiet months of blissful snoozing.” The book ends with a shot of the littlest bear cuddled up with his jersey. His skates, hockey stick, and helmet are at his feet. A picture of the hockey players hangs in his cave.

What a delightful way to remind children that unregulated hockey is supposed to be fun and that relationships matter more than winning. This would be a great gift, especially for a child who gets a little too intense over playing hockey with friends.

Amazon Buy link http://a.co/3ndl9Sp

Buttertart Books https://buttertartbooks.com/

Read the interview with the author here http://wp.me/p1OfUU-2t6.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Sammy and the Fire (A Dangerous and Exciting Adventure) by Lynn Miclea. Book Review.

This story is told entirely from the point of view of the dog. It is totally believable and makes the reader connect and care deeply for the dog. Sammy is an independent little soul. He digs a hole under the fence and keeps it a secret from his family. When he smells smoke, he uses this as an escape to find out what is wrong. Through great tribulation, problem-solving and courage,  he manages to save an old lady and her cat from a house fire.

Sammy was rescued from the pound. His memories show us what it is like for a dog to feel abandoned and then encounter a loving and gentle family. The book subtly reminds children how to treat dogs properly.

The story is highly dramatic and suspenseful yet the author manages to inject some sweet moments of humour such as when the dog hopes the peanut butter candy survives the fire.

Children who are beginning to read chapter books will absolutely love this story. It’s the kind of book you would want your child to read.

One suggestion I have for the author is that, especially with suspense, she should try to avoid using passive verbs. For example. to keep a tight, fast pace, instead of:

“was losing” use lost

“was thicker” use thickened

“was moving slowly” use moved slowly

She might want to use modern names for her children as Billy and Susie sound a bit dated. A good way to keep current is to check the list of the most popular children’s  names the year your  readers were born.

There are five excellent full colour illustrations. My only wish was that they would be full page. I viewed it on an e-book and they were quite small.

All in all, this was a lovely book that I would not hesitate to buy for someone who is just into chapter books.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Suess. Book Review.

 

I remember when this book first came out. Every principal and vice principal who had to MC a high school or elementary school graduation ceremony latched onto this book as a holy text. It was read to classes year after year and then continued to be spread by parents gifting it to their children. There is a reason it resonated so well.

Not only does this book contain sound advice for any young person heading out into the world but it serves as a reminder to us all of our possibilities and our challenges. It can be applied to the beginning of any new venture. I realized, because my granddaughter has a rather large vocabulary, that this book was suitable to read to her before beginning junior kindergarten. Although the message certainly wasn’t internalized on the first read through, the book launches well into discussion.

Everyone worries, whether they are beginning kindergarten, being promoted to the head CO, starting their own business, or leaving the nest, whether they will find their place and fulfill their potential. This book has a perfect combination of positive expectations and reality. “You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.” is followed with “except when you don’t. Because, sometimes you won’t.” Note the word sometimes. The door is wide open. The possibilities are there.

When children are inheriting a dying world with ecosystems being destroyed and pollution, including the dumping of nuclear waste, completely out of control. With wars on going and wars threatening. With obesity and heart attack hand-in-hand with poor diet and factory farming. With climate change bringing desertification, tornadoes and floods and who knows what else. With inner-city violence and the shadow of terrorism. On and on and on. Children need to have confidence and feel empowered but also realize that they will not be able to fulfill every dream or every goal.  Some things are beyond their control. What amazing discussions this book can trigger for any age.

I would say, don’t wait till university graduation or even high school graduation. Get this book into your child’s hands as soon they are able to comprehend it. Then again, you might want to save it for that moment of doubt when he’she faces difficult choices.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A Girl Who Can Hold Her Own Against a Bully – The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz. Illustrated by Dan Santat. Book Review.

Click here to buy The Three Ninja Pigs The Three Ninja Pigs

This fractured folktale is a take on The Three Little Pigs that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The three pigs decide they are going to stand up to the bully, the Wolf, who is blowing down houses. They train at the ninja school. The first one takes aikido and drops out after three weeks. The second little pig takes jujitsu and quits before his teacher says he is ready. Pig three, the girl, learns karate. She stays for months and works through all the belts until she becomes a black belt.

When the Wolf comes to the straw house, pig one is unprepared and must run for his life. When the Wolf comes to the stick house, pig two also has to run for his life. But pig three, their sister, intimidates the Wolf into leaving when she shows him her tremendous skills ending with breaking a pile of bricks with her hand. The two brothers decide to go back to ninja school and in the end the three of them form their own dojo.

It is awesome to see a book where the pigs are not all male and even more inspiring that the girl is the wise and dedicated hero. I love how they’ve included a message in this book without being preachy and used the venue of ninja pigs which is sure to be a favorite with kids. However, the clear difference between the two male quitters and the female hero is a bit denigrating to boys.

This is a rhyming book. I cringed when I realized that but I was quickly impressed. The story is told in limericks. It holds the proper beat consistently. It doesn’t create awkward, unrealistic sentences in order to make the rhyme. The vocabulary is age appropriate throughout. Obviously Schwartz knows his business when it comes to writing in rhyme, a rare talent that too many people try in vain to accomplish.

The pictures are a hoot. They fill the page and the text fits into the bare spots. They are bright, glossy, and remind me of the best quality of graphic novels. The pages are action packed like a true ninja book should be. The pigs expressions are priceless and the Wolf is almost too scary.

This book is pure delight.

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And so we leave our month of three. In the future, I am going to do more themes. I think it’s helpful for teachers and fun for parents. I enjoy it as well. Keep following. 🙂

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Three Grasshoppers by Francesca Bosca. Illustrated by Giuliano Ferri. Book Review.

This tall children’s picture book features three grasshopper friends, Charlie, Connor, and Carl. These talented musicians sing and play their instruments, write songs, and entertain the other grasshoppers. As winter approaches, they realize they have not stored enough food to survive the cold weather. Charlie tells the story of the grasshopper and the ants and the three friends agree that they must begin to store food.

Unfortunately, they are not harmonious workers and the three friends separate. Because they work so hard, they have no time for socializing or making music. When other grasshoppers approach Charlie to say how much they miss the music, he convinces them to work for him storing food. He preys on the grasshoppers’ fears and becomes a tyrannical overseer. Connor and Carl follow suit and soon there is room only for one more storage bin in the field.

The groups of grasshoppers argue over the remaining space and then begin to fight with weapons. Suddenly an elephant appears. Unaware, it is just about to crush all the storage bins when the three friends distract it away with music. Everyone celebrates the saving of the food supplies. Friendships are renewed and Charlie, Connor, and Carl promise to always work together and make music together.

What a meaty little story. Although not necessary, it is a good idea to familiarize the child with the original story of the grasshopper and the ants. This is a much more complex plot and there is much to be discussed about the theme. Here are some questions you could ask your child using vocabulary at her level.

  • Could the three grasshoppers have solved their differences and continued to work together?
  • Must they work so hard that they no longer have time for socializing or making music? Is there no middle ground?
  • Do you think the fact that they stop socializing and making music together impacted on their decision to fight with weapons for the last space? Do the arts have an influence on the way people treat each other? Do collaborative creations, such as writing and performing a piece of music, create bonds between the participants?
  • How do manipulators use fear to get others to work for them?
  • Are you familiar with the phrase, “putting all your eggs in one basket?” Was it wise for the grasshoppers to store all their food in one place?
  • Did you think little grasshoppers would be able to save colony from an elephant in another way?
  • What could the grasshoppers do differently next autumn?

I wondered about the choice of making a book 11.5″ tall by 8.25″ wide featuring ants but it worked well. The reader is brought down to the small ant world through the use of tall grass and flowers. The illustrations are done in soft colors, predominantly in browns, greens, grays, and white. Ferri gives the simple little ants revealing expressions and body language. To differentiate the three groups of ants, Ferri creates triangular, square, and round storage units. The jubilation illustrated on the last page is genuinely heart warming.

Highly recommended.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague. Book Review.

This is pretty close to the original version except instead of leaving home and saying goodbye to their mother, the pigs live on a farm with human beings. It begins, “Once there were three little pigs. They lived on a farm, as most pigs do, and were happy, as most pigs are. Then one day the farmer told the man he and his wife were moving to Florida. He paid the pigs for the good work and sent them on their way.”

My three-year-old granddaughter instantly asked, “What work did they do?” I was stuck. What do you say to that and to the happiness remark? Their work was to provide piglets for slaughter? Are most pigs happy? I sincerely doubt it. Most pigs live horrible lives and die horrible deaths. It’s a strange beginning.

The first picture shows two pigs wrestling in the mud over a basketball while the girl pig (she’s the one with the blue bow stuck to her head) reads a book. There are empty pop bottles and potato chips scattered throughout the pen. There is also a corner table with a tablecloth, a lamp, a partially eaten apple, and a portrait of the pig. I just do not get why the author put humans in the book. Anyway…

From here on this story progresses similarly to the traditional one except for the fact that the pigs have scooters bikes and wheelbarrows and they buy their building materials with cash. The first pig spends most of his money on potato chips. The second one spends it on Sody-pop, but the third one, the girl, spends all her money on bricks and mortar. Her brothers come to watch her while she works. Cringe moment.

A hungry wolf comes to town. The donut shop is closed, the hot dog stand is locked, and he isn’t allowed in the pizza parlor. Then he smells pig. He blows down the first pig’s house but the pig escapes on his scooter. He blows down the second pig’s house and the pig escapes on his bike. When he comes to the brick house, where all three pigs are staying, the wolf passes out with the effort of trying to blow it down. The brothers feel sorry for the wolf and offer him potato chips and soda pop. The third pig, the girl, feeds him dinner. “Since their houses were wrecked, the first two pigs moved in with the third pig. “My house, my rules,” she said. She made them clean their rooms before they went out to play. “The wolf stayed, too. But there was no more huffing and no more puffing. And he was hardly ever bad again.” I can’t imagine what she fed him.

While I love a story where the girl is the hero, I have mixed feelings about this one. The males are infantile. The brother pigs do as little work as possible. They pig out on junk food. 😉 They depend on someone else to rescue them. They offer nothing in exchange for staying with their sister. The wolf expects handouts as well. The difference is too extreme. The males are lazy and useless. The girl is the only adult in the group. In spite of all the five star reviews on Amazon, it’s not the kind of message I would want to share with either a male or female child.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Three Little Dinosaurs by Jim Harris. Book Review.

This 8″ x 10″ picture book uses dinosaurs in place of the three little pigs and a Tyrannosaurus rex in the place of the wolf. The dinosaurs use some traditional phrases such as, “Little pig, little pig, let me come in!” And “then I’ll huff and puff and I’ll blow your house in!” But the dinosaurs take offense at being called pigs. The first dinosaur is a gamer, the second is a bodybuilder, and the third is an intellectual.

In this version the first dinosaur builds a straw hut, the second dinosaur builds a brick house but does not wait for the mud brick to dry completely and the third dinosaur builds a house of boulders and rock. The first two houses are blown down easily but the third will not fall down. The pea brained Tyrannosaurus rex takes years to figure out that a boulder rolling down the mountain will smash the rock house. Unfortunately, he does not take into account that the three dinosaurs have grown up into great big dinosaurs, bigger than him.

Of course the children should be well acquainted with the original Three Little Pigs before reading this story. The two books invite contrasts and comparisons. Children could pick an animal of their choice and rewrite/retell the story.

The illustrations are a hoot. Several are double-page spreads, brightly colored with wonderful detail and expressiveness. The humor of the text is carried into the hilarious illustrations. Jim Harris has written and illustrated a book that brings life to an old, tired tale. A delight to share with any child.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages