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.

The Dog Who Made Exploration Possible – The Miracle Dogs of Portugal by Tracey Aiello. Illustrated by Kent Barnes. Book Review.

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Click here to buy The Miracle Dogs of Portugal

Everyone knows Christopher Columbus but how many people know the true father of exploration, Henry the Navigator. This book details Henry’s relationship with the ocean as a child. He believes the sea is his friend and calls to him. During a storm, he slips away from his parents and convinces Diego Garcia, a fisherman, to take him out on the water. Diego owns a prize Water Dog named Milagro, which means Miracle.

Milagro, nicknamed Millie also has a special relationship with the sea. She speaks with the seahorses, the turtles, and even the tuna. When Henry falls overboard into the ocean, the courageous dog leaps into the water. The dog speaks to the sea creatures and Henry speaks to the ocean. The waves stop and both dog and Henry are rescued.

Upon returning to shore, Diego discovers that Henry’s parents are the king and queen. When they discover the dog saved their son’s life, they insist that he live with them in the castle but Henry says no. She is a prize water dog; she belongs with the sea. The king decrees that all Milagro’s descendents shall be named Portuguese Water Dogs and shall protect kings and fishermen.

When Henry grows up, he sails to Africa and India and inspires and assists such explorers as Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan. He builds a school where he teaches his students to navigate with the stars and listen to the sea. He is the spearhead of the Age of exploration.

Portuguese Water Dogs help fishermen for hundreds of years and become highly prized pets and working dogs.

The author has a talent for description that helps us empathize with the protagonist. “Henry ran down the cobbled road. He ran and ran, ignoring his heavy coat and pants as they grew soaked, forgetting about his cold hands in the rain seeping down his neck.”

Tracy Aiello has used a clever and interesting strategy to engage children in the study of history. Most children love dogs and also using Henry as a young boy for the protagonist guarantees kids will connect with this story. This book is the perfect size for children who are between picture book and early chapter book.

The left side of the page is full text and the right is illustration. The illustrations are done by Kent Barnes. They are loosely drawn cartoon type pictures with odd white outlines as though they have been cut out and paste it on the page. Prince Henry has a hairstyle that reminds me of Beavis of Beavis and Butthead. The backgrounds are minimal, generally a wash of color. I would have liked the illustrations to have some flavour of the time period.

A great book for children who like dogs or are interested in true adventure.

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The Author will be interviewed on this blog on March 15, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

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

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

Halito Gianna by Becky Villareal. Book Review.

Click on the cover to buy the book.

Gianna could easily become one of your children’s favourite book characters. This is a determined, bighearted, independent, and opinionated girl. She is resourceful and clever.

At the beginning of this story, her class is told that they are to dress up as their favourite character from a book for Halloween. Gianna suggests the heroine of The Rough Faced Girl. If you are unfamiliar with this book, I reviewed it on this blog a while back. The protagonist of this story is a First Nations girl with a pure heart, much like Cinderella. It is a character suitable to Gianna who also lives her life with honour.

In the first book in the series, Gianna joined a genealogy club and learned about her mother’s immigration. In this book, she becomes determined to find out what happened to her father, a soldier who went overseas and disappeared.

In the midst of this quest, a new girl arrives at the school; she is from the Choctaw nation, in Broken Bowl, Oklahoma. Gianna takes her under her wing and transforms what could have been a terrifying and terrible day into a fairly good one. The students learn about the origins of the lacrosse and the Trail of Tears many First Nations people were forced to walk.

I don’t want to give away the whole story. It’s touching and inspiring. Because of this little girl, and her kindness to others and determination, she and her mother have a happy ending to this particular part of their lives. I have to admit, this little book put a lump in my throat. Share it with your child. You’ll both love it.

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Review of Gianna the Great

Interview with the Author Becky Villareal

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

The Wizard by Jack Prelutsky. Illustrated by Brandon Dorman. Book Review.

This book is a wondrous blend of poetry and illustration. The cover draws you in immediately. A wizard, with long white hair and beard, wearing a green robe raises his arms to a magical light above. In one hand is a crooked wand. Caught in the rays is a small green frog. The picture fairly glows with magic.

The illustrations inside are not a disappointment. They are all exquisite two page illustrations. They gleam with magical charm.

The story rhymes but not in that irritating singsong way that many picture books adapt. It feels as though you are reading a book of poetry, much like one of my favorite books by Prelutsky The Dragon’s Are Singing Tonight.

It begins:

“The Wizard, watchful, waits alone

within his tower of cold gray stone

and ponders in his wicked way

what evil deeds he’ll do this day.”

A ragged crow, sitting on a cobwebbed table filled with magical paraphernalia, watches the Wizard as he gazes out his tower window onto the small town. The reader is instinctively intrigued as to what wickedness is about to unfold.

This story is basically a vignette wherein the Wizard transforms a frog into a flea into a pair of mice into a cockatoo into chalk into a silver bell and back into the bullfrog. Children may find it upsetting that at the end he dispenses of the bullfrog in a cloud of smoke. The story ends:

“Should you encounter a toad or lizard, look closely…

it may be the work of the Wizard.”

Although the story is easy to understand, I would recommend it for school-age children and up. Younger children, especially those who believe in magic, may be disturbed by the events.

School-age children who love magic and wizardry will be captivated by this beautiful book.

Click on the cover of the book to purchase a copy.

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Other books written by Jack Prelutsky.

      

Other books illustrated by Brandon Dorman.

    

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

“The Missing President” (Adventures of Alleykats Historical Sleuths) by R. J. Williams. Illustrations by Daveia Odoi. Book Review.

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 Click to buy Adventures of Alleykats: Historical Sleuths: The Missing President (Volume 1)

This is an early chapter book, 26 pages long, containing periodic full-page and half-page colored illustrations. Williams says it is the first in a series of historical mysteries for children. The illustrations are simple but effective and appear to be a compilation of computer graphics.

It features three children, Kat, Albert, and Leyla, who use libraries and documents to solve historical puzzles. I love this concept. What a great series this could make for teachers to use in their classroom. This is more of a discovery book than a suspense novel. The children are never in danger at any time.

I wondered about the title, but being Canadian I don’t know that much about American presidents. Once the children started to uncover information about the president who has been ignored by history, I understood. “During the war (1861 – 1865), President Abraham Lincoln was the President of the Union and Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederacy.” What a clever way to introduce a little-known historical fact. I was glad to see the author mentioned that history is written by the winners. Basically, this means we only ever get half the story and that half from a singular perspective with its own agenda.

Two things I would suggest this author works on avoiding before her next publication are the dreaded info dump and inconsistent verb tense. The author needs to know all the characters backgrounds the reader really doesn’t.

Here’s an example of what I mean by verb tense.

The Alleykats have definitely had a full day and it looks like they will make it home in enough time for dinner with their families. “I’m going to share this information with my family at the dinner table this evening,” said Leila. Kat turns to Sgt. Major and says, “You have been great Sgt. Major, thank you for everything especially the tour, we learned so much.”

You probably also noticed author intrusion and unnecessary repetition about dinner. I would recommend a stern editor go over Williams’ next manuscript before publication. This is such an original and educational series, it deserves to be perfect. This first book is worth sharing with a child.

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

The author, R.J. Williams was interviewed on this blog February 1, 2017.

Other books for your child.

    

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Happy Happy Holidays. Felices, Felices Dias Festivos. By S.J. Bushue and Deb McQueen. Book Review.

 

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

Obviously, this is a bilingual book. It is part of a series featuring So Big, a mammal, and Little Bit, a frog. It is basically an explanation of the major American holidays in both English and Spanish. For example, on the first page it reads, “New Years Day, January 1st” and then at the bottom of the page “el Día del Aῆo Nuevo el primero de enero.” So Big is wearing a diaper and a party hat and blowing a noisemaker as he carries an hour glass. Little Bit is jumping into the air and wearing a party hat and carrying a spinning noisemaker. Confetti fill the air and there is a balloon that reads Happy New Year. The characters’ clothing changes as they explain each holiday.  It was great to see some variation in cultural holidays listed.

The book features the following holidays:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Groundhog Day
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Mardi Gras
  • Patrick’s Day
  • April Fools’ Day
  • Easter Sunday
  • Earth Day
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Mother’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Flag Day
  • Fathers’ Day
  • Independence Day
  • National Grandparents’ Day
  • Labor Day
  • Native Americans’ Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Halloween
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Hanukkah
  • Christmas
  • Kwanzaa

At the back of the book there is a list of the holidays with two or three sentences explaining their significance and practice. I had to laugh when I read the blurb on Fathers’ Day. “Fathers’ Day recognizes the contribution that fathers and father figures make to their families. The day is often symbolized by cooking out, gifts, homemade cards and ugly ties.”

As a resource for Spanish speaking immigrants, this book would be wonderfully helpful. I can also see it being used by people who are learning Spanish as a second language.

I did not know that Native Americans Day and Columbus Day were celebrated at the same time. Interesting. I also noticed there is no apostrophe on Veterans Day.

If you go  here you can listen to the book being read aloud in Spanish. There are also coloring pages. You will find a four-line song here that can easily be adapted for a classroom game.

This is a useful and informative book for Spanish speaking children, and adults too, who want to learn about American holidays, cultures, and traditions.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Lego “The Snow Queen” for Kids

actor-gerda2bFinally, I’ve finished the Lego video of a simplified version of The Snow Queen. WARNING: It may be too intense for some preschoolers. Although the most disturbing parts of the original tale have been removed,  there  is a scene where the wizard turns his apprentice into a snake. Older kids will find it funny but little ones might forget that this is just Legos and pictures.

This is an example of RETELL that children can use after reading a picture book. Andersen’s fairy tale is the source for C.S.Lewis’s nasty queen of Narnia. It’s also a FUN story for kids to watch.

This is my second attempt at video recording a story with toys and it took me far longer than it should have to complete the project. Hopefully I’ve learned enough from my mistakes to be more efficient next time.

Check it out and please share my youtube site with friends/family with children or grandchildren.

If there is something you would like to see me attempt video wise for kids, make a comment here and I’ll see what I can do.

Enjoy.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages