Can You Say Peace? By Karen Katz. Book Review.

Although Peace Day was September 21, this gentle book fits well with my theme of war and peace for November.

This is a simple book that shows us how to say peace in different languages. It begins “Today is Peace Day all around the world. Children everywhere will wish for peace, hope for peace, and ask for peace. All around the world today, there will be many different ways to say peace.” From that point on each double-page spread has the name of the child and the country she lives in on the left with a full-page bright illustration. A close-up of the child’s face on the is right with the words on how to say peace in their language with a pronunciation guide. For example, “Meena lives in India.” features an elephant, women on a blanket working or sharing their food I’m not sure which, two women carrying food on the top of their heads, a goat, and palm trees. On the right, “Meena says shanti (SHAHNtee).

The countries featured are India, America, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Iran, Russia, China, France, Ghana, and Bolivia. The book ends with the powerful words, “All around the world, children want to go to school, to walk in their towns and cities, play outside, and to share food with their families. They want to do all these things and feel safe. No matter how we say it we all want peace.”

What an important message that those who suffer the most in our war-ridden world are those who are the most innocent and helpless. It is also an effective reminder to be grateful if we are some of the fortunate people to live in a country that is not being torn apart by war. We need to be grateful if we are able to go to school, play outside, and share food with our families while we feel safe. I wish this for all children everywhere.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

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A Poppy is To Remember by Heather Patterson. Illustrated by Ron Lightburn. Book Review.

This little Canadian book is a suitable introduction for very young children into World War One and the use of the poppy for Remembrance Day. The references to death are subtle but the child understands that war is terrible and takes many away from their families. It also reminds us to remember the wives and children who had to carry-on without a loved one and to remember the service people who returned home.

The last five pages are resources for adults. Two pages explain the story of the poppy in detail with some photographs. Three explain the event of Remembrance Day in Canada. These are both valuable resources for parents and teachers. As much information as the child is ready to receive can be shared.

In the note, the author mentions World War II as well.

The illustrations are gentle and subtle but get across the ideas of loss, fear, loneliness, and jubilation when peace finally arrives. Because this is told about Canadians, the soldiers are all white. However, there were thousands of non-white people who fought for the allies. I’m not sure how this could’ve been addressed. You might just want to mention it.

This is a good book for broaching a terrible and shocking subject for the very young and innocent.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

You may misinterpret the title of this wonderful picture book. I thought it had to do with intelligence but it actually means stylish or well-dressed. I see others made the same mistake since the title has been changed to “Spiffiest.”

George is a giant who wears the same pair of old brown sandals in the same old patched up gown. We see from the illustrations that the townsfolk are quite blasé about George and other giants. The story begins with George deciding to spruce up. He buys “a smart shirt, a smart belt, a smart pair of trousers, a smart stripy tie, some smart socks with diamonds up the sides, and a pair of smart shiny shoes.” He declares that he is now the smartest giant in town. He leaves his old clothes behind and heads for home.

Here the story unfolds of George’s compassionate heart. He gives a giraffe his necktie to keep his long cold neck warm. As he goes on his way, George sings a happy song about giving away his tie but still being the smartest giant in town. George gives his shirt away to a goat who needs a new sail for his boat. He gives a shoe to a homeless mouse family. He gives a sock to a fox that needs a sleeping bag. He puts his belt across the bog to help the dog travel safely. But then, as George hops, his pants fall down. In the end he returns back to town and puts on his old clothes. All the creatures he helped get together and make a gold paper crown and a thank you card that lists all the generous acts and ends with “the kindest giant in town.”

What a wonderful book to lead into discussion of generosity, compassion, and sharing. This would be a great book to motivate children to participate in charitable events and to give up something so that others might have the necessities of life. It also promotes minimalism and non-attachment.

The illustrations are nicely done. The text is threaded throughout the variety of pictures. Some are double spreads, some full-page, and some two or three small illustrations on the page. They are bright, detailed, and colourful. The paper is glossy and good quality which makes the illustrations pop. Highly recommended.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Other great books by Julia Donaldson. Click on the covers for more information or to purchase the books.

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

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

Trell by Dick Lehr. Book Review.

This young adult book is told from the viewpoint of a 13-year-old girl named Van Trell Taylor whose father, Romero, is in prison. She was a baby when he was convicted of the murder of a 13-year-old girl in a gang/drug related crime where someone else was the target. Trell’s mother, Shey, is confident that, even though her husband was a drug dealer and petty criminal, he was not capable of murdering anyone. Trell enlists the aid of a new lawyer and burned out journalist to find the truth about her father.

Although the story is action-packed and suspenseful with a plot filled with twists and turns, it is also an insightful and empathetic study of Trell and Shey. The impact of having a father or husband in jail colors the family’s entire life. Trell and her mother visit Romero in prison every week. Trell’s bedroom mirror holds a picture of her with her father in prison on every birthday. She keeps her father’s history as private as she can from classmates and copes with overbearing and assuming teachers with no true understanding of her family or life.

As the story progresses, the reader becomes more and more invested in the lives of this trio. We suffer with Trell as she learns of her father’s shady past and the evidence against him. It becomes apparent that, while Romero made some bad choices in his past, he is now a mature, responsible adult and loving father. The reader shares Trell’s concerns and increasing hopefulness for her father’s release.

What blew me away was the author’s note. The story is closely based on a true incident in Boston and the writer was the investigating journalist who broke the case wide open! Whenever I read the story of this type, I wonder how many men have been imprisoned (or in some countries, executed) for crimes they did not commit. Dick Lehr gives us some insight into the repercussions of these terrible events.

Personal note: This is one of many reason why I will always be grateful there is no death sentence in Canada as improved DNA tests have shown the imprisonment of the innocent is not as unusual as we think.

This book would interest anyone 13 and up and would be a catalyst for important discussions. Highly recommended.

Buy link http://a.co/4VBsxVo

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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

 

Thank You Bear by Greg Foley. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Thank You Bear Board Book

Here’s a lovely little book to read any time but it would suit Thanksgiving Day beautifully. Greg Foley has written and illustrated a charming and meaningful picture book. The layout is simple, text on the left page and an illustration on the right. The pictures are line drawings with little and muted color. This simplicity helps to portray the character of Bear, a sensitive, well-meaning, and unsure little guy.

Bear finds a little box and says, “Why, it’s the greatest thing ever! Mouse will love this.” On the way to find mouse he shows the gift to Monkey, Owl , Fox, Elephant, Squirrel, and Bunny. Each one deflates bears confidence and enthusiasm. By the time Little bear reaches mouse his sense of joy and excitement has been diminished. But, Mouse crawls inside and says, “It’s the greatest thing ever! Thank you, Bear.”

There are so many important messages in this uncomplicated, sweet story. A gift from the heart, given with understanding, is the best gift of all. We shouldn’t let others destroy our enthusiasm but should trust in our own understanding of a relationship. Gratitude is the best gift given in return. And friendship, respect, confidence, and more. This is the kind of book you can read over and over and find something new to discuss each time.

A timeless book that both parents and children will love.

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If you are looking for more books on gratitude, check out Rayne Shines. You can listen to the author read the book here. https://youtu.be/z_liqNXy07k

41jrlrh2b95l-_sx260_Click here to buy Rayne Shines

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Nat The Cat Can Sleep Like That by Victoria Allenby. Illustrated by Tara Anderson. Book Review.

Buy link – Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That

Nat is a large orange tabby cat who can sleep anywhere, any time. He sleeps in dresser drawers, baskets, a cooking pot, under blankets, and even upside down on someone’s chair. If you ever had a cat you know that they can be comfortable in any position. Nat sleeps “flopping halfway off a shelf, folded over on himself, with his paws all tucked inside, or with limbs flung open wide.” The book following a cat’s sleeping positions would be come boring fairly quickly but Anderson’s illustrations also feature a younger black and white kitten who continually tries to engage the tabby. When Nat is sleeping in a drawer, the black and white kitten is waving a toy fish on a string over his face. When Nat the cat’s sleeping in front of the bedroom door, a black and white kitten is throwing a ball at him. His attempts to awaken Nat become zanier as the book goes on, he dresses and poses like a pirate, a wizard, and an engineer actually driving a toy train. Happily, he gets his wish when the lights are all turned out. Nat joins him in his insane frolicking.

This is a rhyming book and, fortunately, the meter and rhyme holds true throughout. Because there are one or two sentences on each page, the pace does not get bogged down in contrived rhyming. The phrase “Nat the cat can sleep like that!” is repeated throughout the text to good effect.

The illustrations are funny, filled with color and action. The two cats’ personalities and zest for life comes through clearly. The last page, without words, is a humorous twist.

Cat lovers will enjoy this book, both adults and children alike.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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