P is for Princess: A Royal Alphabet by Steven L. Layne and Deborah Dover Layne. Illustrated by Robert and Lisa Papp. Book Review.

Sleeping Bear Press has numerous alphabet books with the same style. There is a four line poem about the featured letter superimposed on a full-color glossy picture. There is an accompanying text bar down the side. I have favorably reviewed some of these books. I picked up this one because my granddaughter is Princess crazy and I wanted to know if this would have some things we could share. The title is a little misleading. I thought it was going to be about princesses but it is actually about royalty. Princesses are only a minor part. It talks about King’s, Queens, emperors, Czars, and royal objects.

The book is a mishmash of fiction and nonfiction. It begins with sleeping beauty whose actual name is Aurora in the fairytales. I was expecting it to be Anastasia, the historical Princess. The letter B features a royal mouse king and queen and discusses “belle of the ball.” C is for Cinderella. D is for Diana, Her Royal Princess the Princess of Wales. The pictures feature historical figures, fairy tale people, and children playing dress-up. I think it would’ve been better if it had either focused on historical or fictional royalty.

The text box is fairly dry considering who might be drawn to this book. Unlike many of Sleeping Bear Presses other books, this one cannot be used as a resource book or teaching text. A factual, consistent approach for historical figures or a fun, imaginative approach for fictional characters would have made this book more useful.

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Click on the covers for more information or to buy the book.

  
  

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

They’re Recycling Aliens, Sequel to Ants in Space by G J Griffiths. Book Review.

The first thing that struck me about this book was the amazing illustrations. The second thing was that the author began the story by writing in the passive verb tense. Action stories, and I assume this is one, should always be written using active verbs. You want the reader to feel that the story is alive and present. This continues throughout the book and noticeably slows the pace.

The gist of the story is that ant sized aliens have come to earth to harvest Teflon from landfill site for use on their home planet. The children decide to join them for an adventure. They are shrunk down to ant size and flow into the home planet. Unfortunately, it is under attack. Children who like aliens, Star Wars, Minecraft, and spacecrafts will enjoy this story.

The writing is charming albeit a little wordy. His description of the toddler coloring is both humorous and endearing. The book is mostly text with the occasional full-page colored illustration. I found it a little confusing to see the illustrations before I had read the relevant text and would recommend that several of the pictures be moved to later pages.

I love that fact that the little girl, dressed as the Princess, introduces the concept of kindness as an antidote to war. Her speech is inspiring and wise.  She also spoke about caring for the planet instead of destroying it and moving on. (Ironic since earthlings are determined to destroy earth.)

The plot is suited to children around eight-years-old but the vocabulary and scientific concepts are much higher. This book might be best shared by a parent with his or her child.

I was given a free e-book copy in exchange for honest review.

Buy link They’re Recycling Aliens: Return to Antanesta (Kweezy Caploza Tales Book 2)

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

R is for Race: A Stock Car Alphabet by Brad Herzog. Illustrated by Jane Gilltrap Bready. Book Review.

If you have a reluctant reader in your house who enjoys stock-car racing, this is the book for him or her. The alphabet is simply a way to organize the material and not the main feature of this text. Each page has a full-page illustration or a double spread featuring something to do with modern or historical stock-car racing. There is a short four-line rhyme accompanying each letter. But, the most additional information is found in a text bar down the side.

For example, “A is early auto races held so long ago. What was so speedy then now seems rather slow.” The text box accompanying this page talks about the first auto race in America taking place in Illinois on Thanksgiving Day in 1895. It compares it to the speed of cars 14 years later. It adds more about A is for Bobby Allison who won the Daytona 500 three times.

The illustrations are realistic and detailed. Beady has had much experience with cars and racing and this shows in her careful and engaging work. Illustrations capture various viewpoints from inside the actual vehicle to the crew pit to the spectators.

The information in the text bars reveals tidbits about the need of stock-cars from tachometers to tires. It explains the rules, talks about famous racers like Dale Earnhardt, examines the cars, mentions several important racing venues, and explores the evolution of the sport.

This book is sure to become a favorite of stock-car young fans.

Click on the covers to buy the books or for more information.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

  

Author G.A. Whitmore Three Random Questions Interview

 

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25% of the proceeds from the sale of A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale are donated to a rescue dog organization.

G.A. Whitmore’s passion for writing and her love of dogs come together in her series The Rescue Dog Tales. The first book in the series, A Place to Call Home is based on the true story of Toby, an abused dog she adopted from the Connecticut Humane Society. She works and lives in Connecticut.  Her current day job in health care management can be stressful, and her rescue dog, Daisy, is an expert at calming her down and making her laugh every day.

Bonnie Ferrante: Tell us a little about yourself.

G.A. Whitmore: I love having her at my feet while I’m writing.  I also need to have a window to look out of when I write, so my desk is positioned so that I face the window in my study. I can stare out into the world that I am trying to keep at bay while I mull over what word to use, or imagine how one of my characters will react in a certain situation.

Ferrante:  Your book, A Place to Call Home, is based on a true story. Toby is a dog you adopted from the Humane Society. He’d been severely abused. Would you recommend that other people follow in your footsteps? 

Whitmore: Yes, of course. If you have room in your home and heart for a dog, visit your local animal shelter. Usually, the staff members know their animals well and can offer good advice on choosing one that will be right for you and your family. Sometimes, abused animals need more attention, but most shelters do not put animals up for adoption until they are socialized and ready for a new home.

Toby was seven months old when I first saw him at the Connecticut Humane Society. He had been physically abused and was severely traumatized. His backstory, as told to me by the woman who rescued him, fascinated and horrified me at the same time. He was found in northern California in a box in a dumpster with a white female puppy, presumably his sister. They were discovered by a young couple travelling back to Los Angeles, who took the puppies home with them. The local vet, upon examining the dogs, thought they might be part wolf. Toby ultimately ended up in Connecticut after relatives of the couple, who had stopped by to visit while on a cross-country driving trip, decided to adopt the puppies.

I couldn’t stop wondering how and why Toby and his sister ended up in a dumpster in a box, and were they really part wolf? And more importantly, what would drive someone to abuse a defenseless puppy? My musings turned into a story. The story turned into a book.

The impetus to finish writing the book came from my realization that Toby’s story could help raise awareness of the plight of abused and abandoned dogs. When A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale was published earlier this year, I decided to donate part of the proceeds from the sale each book to a rescue organization in honor of Toby and all rescue dogs in need of a place to call home.

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Click here to buy A Place to Call Home: Toby’s Tale

Ferrante: That’s wonderful. What advice would you give someone considering adopting an abused pet?

Whitmore: Be sure you are ready and willing to put in the time for your animal to get to know you and your family and to give it the attention and love it needs and deserves. Visit animal shelters and talk to the staff members, most of whom know their animals and will be happy to introduce you to those they think would fit your family and home. Ask questions about the pet’s background, habits, exercise abilities…anything you would want to know about a new family member. That is what this animal will be, after all, so do not be shy about asking.  The staff may not know every answer, but whatever information you receive will help you and your pet get to know each other better.

Ferrante: You have other pets as well. Are any of them rescued animals?

Whitmore: Yes, I have a cat who I rescued, and I have rescued four dogs since Toby. I will always have rescued animals in my home. I cannot imagine my home without them!

Ferrante: What kind of response have you had from children who have read your book?

 Whitmore: They love Toby and his kind and adventurous spirit, and they love the idea of animals talking to each other.  But they also wonder how some people can be so mean to animals. Even the adults who read this book (and there are nearly as many of them as child readers) say they are saddened by that part of the true story.  Most of the children say they cannot wait for the next book in my series.

Ferrante: Yes, it is unfathomable to me that people do these things to animals. Do you have another book in the works? 

Whitmore: I am currently writing the second book in my series, The Rescue Dog Tales, A Place to Belong: Kadee’s Tale.  It was inspired by an article I read in a Reader’s Digest several years ago while sitting in my doctor’s waiting room. (Yes, I am guilty of tearing it out and taking it with me.) Kadee is a mixed breed border collie who is rescued from a dog fight and finds herself part of a training program that pairs juveniles who get in trouble with rescue dogs. The lead human character, Sam, is a good girl who gets into some trouble, ends up at a ranch for juvenile offenders, and is ultimately accepted into the rescue dog-training program. As you might guess, she is paired up with Kadee and the two of them become inseparable.

three random questions

Ferrante: If any one of the national holidays had to be celebrated twice a year, six months apart, which one would you want it to be?

Whitmore: Thanksgiving, although I’m a vegetarian and do not eat turkey (or tofurkey, either), because I have so much to be grateful for and because I love pumpkin pie.

What is not a national holiday, but I wish it were, is Rescued Animals Day.  I would like to see shelters have open houses on that day and offer incentives to suitable people to adopt one of their shelter animals. Maybe someone you know will start the movement to make that happen!

Ferrante: Sounds like a great idea. Maybe one of the children who read your book will lead the way.

 If you were on an African safari, what would you absolutely have to see for your trip to be complete?

Whitmore: Like most people, I am fascinated by elephants, so seeing them up close and free would be amazing. But I also love the big cats…and the wild dogs…and the graceful giraffes…and the tiny meerkats…and….as you can tell, I would be one of those folks jumping around in her seat to see and photograph every wild thing!

Ferrante: If you had to choose your own epitaph of eight words or fewer (besides name and dates), what would it say?

Whitmore: She loved animals, and they loved her, too.

Ferrante: That’s beautiful. What a wonderful way to be remembered. Thank you for spending time with me today. I look forward to reading your book.  And thank you for being a refuge for unfortunate animals.

Read the book review here.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A Place to Call Home, Toby’s Tale by G. A. Whitmore. The Rescue Dog Tales. Book Review.

This story is told in first person from the dog, Toby’s, point of view. All the animals in the novel converse with each other much like those in Charlottes’ Web.

We follow the life of Toby, beginning with his grandparents. Toby is a pure white husky who has Wolf blood in him. Unfortunately, he is born to a breeder who plans on killing Toby and his sister because their unusual color will ruin his business. What follows is a repeatedly heartbreaking story. But, if you can push through to the end, Toby finally has the loving home he deserves.

This would be a terrific book for kids who love animals and dogs. It’s realistic and thought-provoking events will help the child to be more loving and responsible toward dogs and all pets.

The author, who provided the safe home for Toby, based this story in actual fact filling in the details using logic and imagination. She ends the book with discussion questions that would be suitable for classroom or for a parent to share with his or her child. Not only does this book teach kindness to animals but it brings up important topics such as personal responsibility, prejudice, and points of view.

Don’t be surprised if your child gets a little upset reading this. Although it is not gruesome, there are some seriously sad and infuriating moments with regard to how people treat animals. It is a valuable book that I highly recommend for ages 10 and up.

Click on the cover to buy the book.

The author will be interviewed tomorrow.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Pioneer Alphabet by Mary Alice Downie. Illustrated by Mary Jane Gerber. Book Review.

I love a book that takes you further and further into the subject. This is the type of book that a child learning about pioneers can go back to over and over again and learn something new each time.

On first read, the text boxes at the bottom of each beautifully illustrated page contains several words that begin with the featured letter. For example, “A is for Abigail and Anna, my two sisters. Even though they are awful, I am making them an alphabet book.” “B is for Bangalore. I can do whirrlies with it. Abigail can only make it go up and down, and Anna can’t even do that.” As you follow the text through the book, you learn more about Zebadiah’s pioneer family and the work and play that encompasses their very full days.

For a more extensive understanding of pioneer life, each page has further details at back of the book. For example, it explains the A page like this: “Like other pioneer children, the twins, Abigail and Anna, lived in a log cabin in the woods with their family and household pet – Xersus the cat. They didn’t go to school, nor did they have television, computer games, or friends nearby. But even though they had many chores, they still managed to have fun – and get into trouble!”

Going through the third time, the reader can examine the illustrations above each full-page picture. This reminds me of the style of Jan Brett. For example, above the “A” page you can find an acorn, arrow, ark, animals, acts, and bill, and amethyst.

This would be a very valuable resource for teachers in primary grades. There is just enough information on each page to make for a comfortable first read. Children will enjoy trying to figure out the additional alphabet words above each picture. Further information at the back will be helpful to the teacher.

The illustrations are impressive and engaging. By the end of the book, the reader feels as though he or she knows this pioneer family and how their lives progress. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in pioneer life or for classrooms where North American pioneers are on the curriculum.

Other books where the frames extend the story or information. Click on the cover to buy the book.

PLEASE COMMENT IF YOU CAN THINK OF SIMILARLY ILLUSTRATED BOOKS OTHER THAN JAN BRETT’S.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Gingerbread Man (with a happy ending)

Most children are dismayed when the Gingerbread Man is eaten by the fox even though that’s what we do with cookies. In this version, not only is the Gingerbread Boy saved by the  little old lady who created him, but so are several other new friends he has made on his journey. This is a story of a different kind of family formed by love and compassion with a message of kindness to all.

The story contains repetitive phrases which children will enjoy reciting. The pictures were created using Legos, graphic illustration, and toys.

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A is for Anaconda: A Rainforest Alphabet by Anthony D. Fredericks. Illustrated by Laura Regan.

This is not an alphabet book for preschool or kindergarten children. In fact, calling it an alphabet book could be misleading. It is, in fact, an extensive resource book for information about rainforests. For example, a is for anaconda. Most letters receive a two-page spread. The detailed and realistic illustration of the anaconda fills one page and two thirds of the other. A four-line rhyme is imposed on the picture. It reads:

A is for Anaconda,
its size – a scary feature,
It swims and slips through rivers deep,
and eats most any creature.

For such a short little poem, it packs a lot of punch.

But that is just the beginning. a text bar down the side of the page explains how the anaconda is the longest snake in the world. It tells us that anacondas belong to a group of snakes known as constructors and relates in detail how they kill. Then it adds a little tidbit adding that A also stands for Australia, home to some of the most distinctive rainforest animals and plants in the world.

The letters are represented as follows:
B is for Brazil and bromeliads (plants).
C is for canopy and chicle (a gum).
D is for dispensers. (I bet you never saw that coming.) It is also for deforestation.
E is for epiphytes (a plant) and endangered.

And so on.

It is great to see an entire two-page spread dedicated to the medicines we have received from rainforests and could receive in the future , if there’s anything left. Also included are the Yanomamo people. The last page is the most powerful.

Z is for the number zero.
I hope you’ll understand –
it’s all the species that are left,
if we don’t preserve this land.

It states such facts as “The number of fish species in the Amazon exceeds the number in the entire Atlantic Ocean.” And finishing off with, “By some estimates at least one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second of every day.”

The last text before the ending bullets and answers to questions reads, “Some experts estimate that more than 130 plant, animal, and insect species are lost every single day due to rainforest deforestation (that’s about 50,000 species a year)! If deforestation continues at current rates, some scientists figure that nearly 80 to 90% of tropical rain forest ecosystems may be destroyed within the next 25 years.” (published in 2009)

Click on the picture to buy the book.

It is unfortunate that it doesn’t cite the biggest contributing problem – the massive intake of meat by an exploding population. According to my research, more than half of deforestation is done to create cattle ranches or, more often, to grow food to feed farm animals. The worst part is, the land can only sustain this for a few years and then they must move on leaving decimation behind them.

The fact “if deforestation continues at current rates” is misleading. The population of earth is presently at 7.5 billion people. Every day, meat producers are expanding their market into new countries and cultures. Because of this, and other more minor factors, the rate of deforestation of rainforests is increasing. Environmentalists and human rights advocates who have opposed cattle ranchers and big corporations have been murdered. Fewer people are willing to speak out. As a result, we will continue to the loose potential cures, trees that provide clean air, unique and wonderful animals, and stunningly beautiful ecosystems. For more information on this, watch the documentary Cowspiracy.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Aster Aardvarks Alphabet Adventures by Steven Kellogg. Book Review.

This book is basically an alphabetical tongue twister. The first letter reads:

Aster Aardvark had an aversion to the alphabet. Appalled by Aster’s attitude, Acorn Acres Academy alerted her aunt Agnes, who arranged for an airplane to aid Aster’s academic advancement. After Aster applied herself and achieved and A, all assembled to applaud her amazing aptitude for aerial alphabetical aerobatics.

Each letter is a story or vignette onto itself. This includes a bear basketball team, and animal Symphony, archaeologists, and celebrities. All are represented by anthropomorphic animals dressed in clothing and living in a human world.

The pages are crammed full of detailed illustrations. There are so many patterns and movements that the eye is somewhat overwhelmed. This would be a great book for the type of child who enjoys studying each page and discovering more than what is seen at first glance. It would also be a challenge for children, or adults, to read aloud.

Click on the item or cover for more information.

  

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Powerful Art – The Girl Who Saved Yesterday by Julius Lester. Illustrated by Carl Angel. Book Review.

 Click on the cover to buy the book.

It was the illustrator, Carl Angel, who asked me to review this book. So I will start with the illustrations. They are double-page spread paintings that are worthy of an art museum. Dynamic, expressive, and insightful, they pull you into the page.

The story takes place in Africa. The trees, that have taken the little girl in and raised her, remind me a little of the Ents in Tolkien’s book. These ones, however, are more exotic and spiritual. The monkey, parrot, villagers, elephant, and the lion are vivid and realistic.

The heroine, Silence, is a beautiful young woman whose task is to save the village that abandoned her. You can almost feel the texture of her hair.

When she braves the mountain, going against the village rules, we have no doubt that she will succeed in her quest. Her long strides up the mountain, scythe in hand, show us Silence’s determination and fearlessness. When she speaks to the trees, she has almost achieved the status of goddess in her pose and sense of command. But then, Carl Angel softens her appearance when she uncovers the markers of the forgotten ancestors. At first she is shocked, then again Silence is determined to change things, and finally joyous.

Every detail in the pages of illustration contribute to this story. The girl, loved and raised by the trees, wears a dress patterned in leaves and an armband made of twigs. The sky changes to reflect what is happening in the story. The text is a fable, almost legendary, and Carl Angel’s illustrations frame it perfectly.

A little on the story… The villagers have forgotten their ancestors. Because of this, frightening things have been happening. Once the grave markers are found and the ancestors are honored, both night and day become times of peace and harmony.

The story ends with Silence returning to the trees that loved and cared for her. Although the villagers want to thank her and ask for her forgiveness, she does not return. She already knows her place in the universe.

There is much to discuss about both text and illustrations. An unusual, exceptional book.

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I was given a copy of this book for my Little Free Library in exchange for a book review.

The illustrator, Carl Angel, was interviewed on my blog February 22, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages