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

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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 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

Three Hungry Pigs and the Wolf Who Came to Dinner by Charles Santores. Book Review.

The illustrations catch the readers attention by virtue of their realism. The pigs seem as though they could grunt and waddle away at any moment. Each pig is unique and portrays individual personalities through their expressions.

The story goes in an unusual direction. A sow has two piglets on a farm. These are not meat pigs but animals that are trained to find truffles. The mother pig, Bianca, is the best truffle-hunter the farmer has ever seen. She passes her skills on to her piglets. One day, she gives into her  natural urges and eats a truffle instead of giving it to the farmer. The farmer banishes all three to the woods. (In the real world, they would have been butchered and eaten not sent out where they can devour more truffles.) Defenceless in the woods, the pigs are soon found by a huge wolf. Just as he is about to eat the sow, she drops a truffle into his mouth. He is hooked.  When the pigs help him find more truffles, all thoughts of eating them disappear. A pack of wolves surround the pigs but the big wolf drives them away. The wolf stays with the pigs and babysits the piglets while Bianca finds truffles. “And they all lived happily ever after.”

You might want to discuss the ethics of making an animal find food they love and then taking it away from them. Pigs have an innate ability to find truffles but often can’t stop themselves from eating it. Farmers are now using dogs, who take time to train but won’t eat the truffle. Children will want to know what truffles are. Perhaps you could have the child taste them (or a similar mushroom). You could hide a food the children love and see if they can “sniff” it out. Then ask them how they would feel if you took it for yourself.

Wolves are pack animals. When one is alone, it’s usually because something has happened to the pack. Discuss how the pigs and wolf have a mutually beneficial relationship. Let’s not think about winter. Maybe the ground never freezes there.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Three Little Dassies by Jan Brett. Book Review.

This children’s picture book is yet another example of why Jan Brett is one of my favorite author/illustrators. The detail she puts into her artistry is absolutely stunning.

When I read the title I wondered what a dassie was. When I looked at the cover picture there were three little creatures who seem to be a combination of rodent and teddy bear. So I looked it up. It is an African rodent that lives among rock outcrops. It is also called a rock badger or a Cape hyrax.

These little dassies, Mimbi, Pimbi, and Timbi, wear beautifully detailed African clothing and behave like humans. Still Brett manages to teach us a great deal about the natural habitat and other animals in the dassies’ environment through her wonderful illustrations. In addition to the huge picture taking up two thirds of the double-page spread in this 10″ x 11″ book her trademark embellishments not only share more of the fabric patterns and plants of this African area but extend the story line pictorially. Stunning is not a strong enough word for how captivating and engrossing these illustrations are to the reader.

This story is a fractured version of the Three Little Pigs with the wolf represented by the eagle. With each potential prey, the ego calls, “I see you, dassie! Here I come!” When he lands he shrieks, “I’ll flat and I’ll clap and I’ll blow your house in!” He uses his wings and tail to bring down both the straw house and the driftwood house. Both little dassies are carried off to his nest to feed his babies. While he is trying to bring down the stone house, a new friends of the dassies, Agama Man, saves them. The agama is a Sub-Sahara lizard.

When the eagle tries to come down the chimney to get the three dassies, he gets black and singed by the fire. That’s why African eagles are black. The book concludes with a realistic picture of the lizard and dassies.

What an interesting version of a well-cloned folk tale. Even though the text is fairly short, be sure to provide a good chunk of time to examine and discuss the pictures with your child.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Walk a Mile in the Troll’s Shoes – The Three Billy Goats Fluff by Rachel Mortimer. Illustrated by Liz Pichon. Book Review.

Click here to buy The Three Billy Goats Fluff

I am so impressed that authors continue to come up with new takes on old stories. Some of them are poorly done; this one isn’t one of those. It begins with a double spread picture of a troll holding his pillow on top of his head, eyes rolled up and mouth a squiggle, as the three Billy Goats Gruff trip-trap loudly over the bridge. Instantly we see that in this story the troll is suffering and we feel sympathy for him. This book is probably going to be told from his point of view.

When we turn the page, we see the poor troll reading an old newspaper advertisement for his new home under the bridge. Clearly he has been misled by the words “troll paradise”. The noise is driving him to distraction.

We learn that the three Billy Goats Fluff live next to the bridge and cross it frequently. The green grass on the other side makes their fleeces extra fluffy which is important for Mother Goat’s knitting business. But this means nothing to the troll who finally snaps and threatens to eat them all if they don’t stop tromping over his bridge.

Here the book takes a wonderful turn. Mother Goat listens to her three Billy Goats and feels compassion for the poor troll identifying with his lack of sleep. She leaves him a note that says if he can still hear them after accepting a gift, he can eat them. Otherwise he must stop being grumpy and start being nice. When each of the goats across the bridge they wear thick, hand-knitted booties which cushion their steps. The troll hears nothing. He opens the gift from Mother Goat and finds earmuffs and a special blanket. Included is also an apology note. That night the troll sleeps soundly.

What a wonderful way to teach children to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes (or knitted booties). Instead of responding with anger or defensiveness, Mother Goat does her best to make life better for the troll.

The illustrations are as cute as Mother Goat’s booties. The troll is unusual, but not terrifying.

Even the youngest child will enjoy this story and its peaceful, happy ending.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Three Frilly Goats Fluff by Adam and Charlotte Guillain and Phil Littler. Book Review.

Click here to buy The Three Frilly Goats Fluff

The Three Frilly Goats Fluff by Adam and Charlotte Guillain and Phil Littler is a hilarious take on the three Billy goats. In this version the goats are crazy over clothes. They wear frilly bonnets and hats, frilly puffy blouses, earrings and bows. You might have some explaining to do if you have previously told your child that Billy goats are boys because in this book, they are girls, I think.

Each of the Billy goats decide they absolutely must go to the mall on the other side of the bridge no matter the threat to personal safety. The first Billy goat throws her scarf at the troll to distract him and get safely over to the other side. The second throws her earrings, and the third one throws her bag. They have a splendid day shopping. However, when they try to cross the bridge together to return home, the troll is waiting… to show off his new clothes! From that point on, they all go shopping together.

The text is followed by a sequencing puzzle and the dialogue quiz. The pictures are bright and simple but expressive.

My granddaughter and I really enjoyed this book. It was funny, lighthearted and positive. I love that the conflict was solved without violence. I also love the message that people (or goats or trolls) should be allowed to wear what they want and be who they are. The next time we act out the Three Billy Goats Gruff, I am going to suggest this version.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages