All of Me! A Book of Thanks by Molly Bang. Book Review.

This is an unusual book of thanks. It reminds me of a Buddhist gatha where we thank our body for everything it has given and done for us. In this text, the child thanks his feet, hands, knees and elbows, head, five senses, and other parts of his body. He expresses appreciation and wonder at the gifts given to him through his body. For example:

“I smile and talk and sing with my mouth. My lips kiss Mommy and Daddy. My teeth bite crackers. My tongue licks ice cream. My most tastes all my food before it slides down here, into my tummy.”

There’s one exceptionally beautiful moment where, after expressing thanks for all the things he can hear such as honking, singing, barking, laughing, purring, ticking,and rumbling, he hears between the noises… Silence. This illustration is a double spread of a night sky with a crayon outline of the boys face, eyes closed, calm and serene.

The illustrations are large and bright, done with crayon and cut out pieces of felt and graphics.

This book is a excellent reminder to be thankful for the simple things we receive, to express gratitude for our bodies with which we experience the whole universe.

It ends “And right now I also know that I am part of this whole world – this universe! All this is my home. I am ALIVE. And this whole universe is inside… All of me! What a wonder.
What seems at first to be a simple picture book is actually a profound and wise way of looking at the world and oneself. This would be a beautiful nighttime story for a child, a wonderful book to share on Thanksgiving Day, a Sunday school or Dharma school treasure, or even a reminder to adults not to take their lives for granted.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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Eating Green by Molly Aloian. Book Review.

 Buy Link Eating Green (Green Scene)

“Eating green means understanding the impact our food choices have on the environment and trying to lessen that impact. To eat green, we must buy food with little or no packaging. We should eat fresh food and local food that is grown or made nearby. Eating green also need avoiding foods that have been sprayed with harmful pesticides.”

Although this picture book is written for children, it is a reminder for people of all ages of the impact of our choices. It discusses necessary and unnecessary packaging and its impact on landfills. It explains the difference between processed foods and fresh foods and their impact on the earth and our bodies. Organic foods are preferred and the harmfulness of pesticides is explained. The reader learns why buying local is a good habit. The accumulation of toxic plastic drinking bottles is examined. The book encourages little-free lunches. It ends with the beautiful double page spread on the importance of family mealtime. Bonus: a simple but healthy pizza recipe at the end of the book. There is also a glossary and an index.

The illustrations in this book are full-color photographs which highlight and elucidate the message. You cannot look at that pile of garbage, mostly plastic, and not feel we need to change. This is an excellent book for families to share.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Let’s Eat! What Children Eat Around the World by Beatrice Hollyer. Book Review.

This book features food of five children: Jordan from France, Luis from Mexico, Thembe from South Africa, Yamini from India, and AA from Thailand. Each section gives an overview of the child’s life, family, and food. It features a special day where food is prominent. The book begins with a chocolate cookie recipe from chef Jamie Oliver.

Eight-year-old Thembe has to carry water in a clay pot, walk across the hills to school, work in the vegetable garden, collect firewood, and help with dinner. The special event is a wedding.

Something that will surely encourage discussion, “The groom’s friends have killed two cows for the wedding feast. The best pieces are barbecued for the men, and the rest is put into big pots to stew.”

Six-year-old Luis collects eggs and cares for the sheep. He washes his face with water from the big cement basin in the courtyard. Breakfast is cold rice pudding or cornflakes and chocolate milk. He eats tortillas at nearly every meal. His special day is fiesta just before Christmas.

Eight-year-old AA helps to feed a Buddhist monk every morning. She can cook her own eggs.

The book continues sharing similarities and differences between the lives and diets of these children. It is written in a way children can understand and shares relevant and interesting facts. It ends with a recipe from each child and a glossary. The recipes are a milk tart, tomato salsa, Thai fried eggs, chocolate cake, and coconut sweet.

This book would help children connect with other cultures and also appreciate what they have. I wish the recipes were more substantial and not focused so much on sweets.

All proceeds from this book go to Oxfam.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Harvest Celebrations by Clare Chandler. Book Review.

The topics covered in this nonfiction book for ages 8-11 are:

  1. harvest around the world
  2. a successful harvest
  3. the history of harvest festivals
  4. religious festivals
  5. other harvest festivals
  6. the changing harvest
  7. calendar of harvest festivals

The book is 31 pages long and is half text, half photographs. It includes a glossary.

Some sensational information may be disturbing to children.

  • “It was the custom for ancient people in many parts of the world to sacrifice human beings at harvest. This was supposed to make sure of a good crop the following year. The people of Canar in Ecuador, South America, used to sacrifice one hundred children every year at harvest.”

It does not mention that many religions today still sacrifice living animals on altars. I think this is skewed reporting. It is easy to condemn the behavior of early cultures without honestly examining those of our time.

Another shortcoming is the glossing over of modern farming. Everything is written in a positive fashion with no mention of deforestation, child labor or poor migrant workers. The factory farming of animals, overfishing, and the destruction of the environment due to modern food production aren’t even mentioned.

I borrowed this book from the library. It needs to be updated and made more socially relevant.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Megan’s Munchkin’s by Pamela Foland. Book Review.

Thirteen-year-old Megan finds four abandoned one-day-old kittens and takes them home. She keeps them hidden in her room because her parents believe she isn’t responsible enough to have a pet and there are allergies in the family. Meagan carefully researches how to care for the kittens and follows an exhausting feeding schedule. She obtains a reduction in the vet bill by pretending she is working on a 4H project. She works hard on an astonishing number of large or difficult chores around the house and yard hoping to prove her dependability to her parents.

A great deal of useful information is shared with the reader about the care of kittens. Each cat is given a name and Meagan shares their growth and development with the reader. I would have liked her to demonstrate more emotion. Meagan often spoke and behaved like an adult. I think the tension could have been increased as keeping four kittens hidden from her parents seemed fairly easy, until she was caught. Some of the routine scenes could have been used to create more excitement.

I was surprised Megan’s parents let her keep the four felines. Would she have to keep them in her bedroom to avoid triggering allergic reactions in her family? (Which would be thwarted by air circulation anyway.) How would this work when the cats were older? The deception with the vet is not addressed.

For children who love cats, this is an informative and sweet story although some readers might find it a bit didactic.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A Self-Absorbed Cat – Chester by Mélanie Watt. Book Review.

If you have a cat, you and your child will totally get this picture book. If not, younger children might have difficulty understanding the concept.

The author, Mélanie Watt, tries to write a book about a mouse but Chester, the cat, hijacks the book with his red marker. He inserts words and sentences, scribbles out what he doesn’t like, and alters the illustrations. His contradictions escalate until the author gives up arguing and decides to humiliate Chester by drawing him in a pink tutu with a crown.

The back and forth throughout the text is quite humorous and embodies the inflated sense of entitlement that cats often have. I think this book would be suitable for children of school age and up as the concept relies on an understanding of sarcasm, debate, and story creation. I think the humor may be suited to parents more than children.

I was disappointed with the outdated illustration. It smacks of sexism and other issues regarding LGBT that I wish she had avoided. My granddaughter didn’t understand why Chester would be offended drawn as a princess ballerina. It would have been just as funny if Watt had pictured him in a clown suit or made him look like a dog with a leash.

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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

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

World Elephant Day

Saturday, August 12 is World Elephant Day. In homage to these amazing beings I have made a video, for ages 8 and up, chronicling the lives of two Indian elephants. The story is a blend of the lives of several elephants. The events are common and factual. Elephant fans of all ages will appreciate this video. Here is the link. https://youtu.be/CtWMvggEW6I

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Ali the Inventor Saves the Garden! by Amire Makin. Book Review.

This was a unique and positive picture book. Ali is a boy who loves math and electronics and considers himself an engineer and inventor. He looks to be about 10 or 12 years old. Ali explains to the reader that electronics show how a thing really works. Math formulas solve electronic problems.

Allie goes out into the community to see who can he can help with his skills. He meets Mr. Maxwell whose vegetable garden is dying because the sprinkler system won’t work. Allie takes the electronic circuit board to his lab where he fixes it. While he works, he explains how to be safe using electronics. With the assistance of Mr. McCoy, he solves the timer problem using mathematics. This is pretty advanced formula work. Even though a child may not understand the math, they will be able to follow the story. Allie successfully repairs the sprinkler system.

The story ends:

“Friends, remember we used math to convert the time for minutes into seconds. We also used math to fix an electronic circuit so sprinkler system would work. Always use a grown-up when working with electronics. The ability to make a big difference is deep inside of you. Train your brain to solve problems in your neighborhood!”

I love that this young man showed how important, useful, and fun understanding math can be. He also demonstrated that we can use whatever our skills are to contribute to our society. He was socially engaged and responsible. This would be a great book to read to a child who says, “I’ll never use math in real life.”

The book showed people of diverse backgrounds. The illustrations were in the style of early comic books. Allie was a lovable protagonist, especially when he did his little victory dance.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages