A Simple, Painless Strategy for Getting Your Child to Eat Accompanied by Unusual Illustrations – Zeke Will Not Eat! By Delin Colón. Book Review.

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Click here to buy Zeke Will Not Eat!

Although this is a picture book, Zeke Will Not Eat! is written for parents as well. Delin Colón , the author, has a background in clinical psychology.

Zeke is not interested in eating. He hates having his play disrupted for mealtime and in rebellion cries and pouts throughout the meal. His parents are concerned for his health. His father passes on a technique his father used with him. They arrange the food on the plate to represent a little town. Zeke pretends he is a giant and destroys the town by eating it. By making it a game and encouraging Zeke to feel as though he has power and control, the onus is off the parents to convince Zeke of the value of eating properly.

This strategy is definitely worth a try. No matter how well-meaning parents are, mealtime can easily become a battleground. It might be fun to take it even one step further and have the child help select the food and build the structure or village he is going to consume. There are also numerous ideas online for turning food into three-dimensional art.

I’m not sure if I would read this to the child before attempting this strategy or after. Parents know their children best.

The second component about this book that is definitely worth sharing, with children and adults alike, are the unique illustrations. Delin Colón, both the author and illustrator, has used an unusual style of cut-paper art. The same 150 paper shapes are arranged and rearranged to create pictures of Zeke in a variety of activities. Once you understand the creative and problem-solving effort that went into using this technique, the illustrations are worth a second look. Delin Colón has included instructions at the back of the text for parents to try out this novel endeavour with their child. However, I would reassure my child that they did not have to use all the shapes in every picture.

An introductory activity to this might be using tangrams. Depending on the age of the child, a bucket full of geometric shapes could work just as well.

This book is worth obtaining for either the valuable conflict-free strategy for dealing with picky eaters or the unusual illustrations.

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The author will be reviewed on this blog May 3, 2017.

Click on the picture to buy the Tangrams 28 Piece Set by Learning Advantage

Click on the picture to buy  Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The New Small Person by Lauren Child. Book Review.


This book does an excellent job of telling the story from the point of view of the older sibling. In the beginning Elmore Green is an only child. He’s very proud of his room and he is the centre of his parents’ lives. He likes to watch his own television shows, eat his jellybeans, and lay out his toys just so. But when his younger sibling arrives he is no longer the centre of everyone’s attention. The small person demands a different channel on his little television, messes up his toys and even licks his jellybeans. Eleanor is told to accommodate the child because he is just small.

When the new small person gets bigger, he starts to emulate Elmore and follow him around. Eventually he is moved into the same room which Elmore detests this because now he has no escape. But, one night Elmore has a nightmare. The younger sibling hugs and comforts him and helps him to fall back asleep. After that they start to experience more commonalties and Elmore sees his sibling in a new light.

The children are dark skinned with curly hair while the parents’ friends are a mixture of skin colors. The drawings are simple but cute with no backgrounds and cross into double page spreads with words around them.

I think this is a realistic and helpful story for children expecting a younger sibling to arrive. At the beginning, and there will be problems and he will have frustrations. As the younger sibling grows, he will become more involved in the older sibling’s life and, hopefully, they can find common ground. I like that the older sibling was never mean and had patience in spite of his frustration and worry.

I think this book would be helpful for preparing an only child for the arrival of a sibling. Much discussion would need to follow, especially addressing the fears of being replaced. At the end of the story, we see that the older child is accepting and inclusive, but does have limits. No eating his orange jelly beans. Parents need to have open communication with the older child about acceptable boundaries and how to create them. I love the gentle tone of this book and the drawings are endearing without being overly sweet. Lauren Child’s book have never disappointed me.

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

  

  

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

An Independent Woman- Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond by Jayne Barnard. Book Review.

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Click here to buy Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond

Jayne Barnard has written a classic “Who Done It?” placed in the setting of a steam punk universe. Her extensive knowledge of Victorian times comes through clearly in details of clothing, behaviour, social class, and environment creating a tangible sense of the time period. She has blended this beautifully with steam punk culture. The author explains steam punk, as well as diesel punk and cyberpunk, in an interview on this blog here https://bferrante.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/author-jayne-barnard-three-random-questions-interview. Basically, steam machines are predominant. This includes dirigibles for cross Atlantic travel. Mix these two together and you get a recipe for a fun, unique mystery.

The major character calls herself Maddie Hatter in order to travel incognito as a reporter. She is in reality, the daughter of a rich and powerful Steamlord but prefers to make it in the world on her own mettle. However, in order to survive, she is forced to file fashion columns on a steady basis to pay her bills.

“She spent the afternoon composing a weeks worth of articles centred on Lady HH’s new Easter bonnet. This immense edifice of wire, linen, and lilies was worthy of a public Cathedral, and would be seen in one on Easter Sunday in London.”

The men of her era do not take her seriously and don’t hesitate to claim her detecting results as their own. Some young women reading this may be surprised as to how women were invisible in male social circles, especially women of the lower class.

Maddie is brave, clever, independent, and determined. We wish she would get the recognition she deserves but know that the best possible outcome is that she will be able to continue to live independently and pursue her dream of becoming a famous byline reporter. Not using her real name, of course. Since this book is the beginning of the series, we may yet hope that she will be justifiably rewarded for her courage and intelligence.

There is a list of cast members inspired by the game of Clue (Professor Plumb, Colonel Muster, Sir Ambrose Peacock) and the bigger-than-life explorers of the time period. Barnard uses a rich vocabulary which gives the text a Victorian quality. There is a missing trunk with a tribal mask holding a possibly magical massive diamond. There is an empty dirigible crashed far from its planned route. There are missing documents. Etc. I don’t like to say much about the plot of a mystery as it is too easy to accidentally include spoilers.

Hidden in the light-hearted text, the reader periodically comes across an absolute poetic piece of writing.

“She could look out over the desert below, its rocky outcrops and sloping dunes tinted blue by a waxing moon that shimmered over crests and lined each sandy windrow in purple shadow. Concerns of the civilized world were as ants beneath the weight of mere survival down there; up here, too, her worries faded before the vast empty majesty of the land and sky, the whisper of the night-time breeze teasing the sand into new patterns for the next morning. A bird warbled, alone in the immensity.”

Her description takes the writer to another world filled with sensations.

“In a very short time, Maddie, Clarice, and Nancy were walking down the gangplank to the Venetian aerodrome. The greeny-gray waters of the Grand Canal murmured four floors below, but the gangplank was wide and the side-rails sturdy oak. Their trunks, bags, and hat boxes followed in a veritable parade of porters. Mist kissed their cheeks, too delicate to be called rain, but leaving a slick over the vast, flat rooftop with its contra-dance of passengers, porters, and luggage. At the last step, the men in majordomo’s livery of black and teal – the Aquatiempe colors, Maddie recognized – lay in wait for them. A phalanx of one-wheeled automatons stood behind him, their armatures ready to take the load from the porters. Steamer trunks would be towed while smaller boxes were piled on their polished platforms. The ladies, the majordomo indicated with a bow and an outstretched hand, would be conveyed across the terminal and a teacup-shaped, auto-steering steam-carriage, painted and upholstered in teal with black accents.” And it continues.

If you enjoy lighthearted mysteries with unusual flavour, then this is a book for you.

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The author, Jayne Barnard, will be interviewed on this blog on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

My Two Grannies by Floella Benjamin. Illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain. Book review.


Alvina has two grandmothers that love her very much. Granny Vero is from Trinidad. Granny Rose is from Yorkshire. They both love their granddaughter and enjoy sharing stories about their childhood. When Alvina’s parents decide to go on a holiday, both grandmothers insist they should care for the little girl. They finally agreed to do it together.

Of course they argue constantly about who is going to tell her a bedtime story and what activity they will do next. The little granddaughter finds the solution, a simple but sensible one. In the end the grannies learn to know each other better and as well as providing a healthy, loving, and fun-filled atmosphere for Alvina.

The illustrations are full page drawings that clearly show the emotions and personalities of the characters.

This is a great book that shows how our differences and actually enrich our lives.

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

    

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Finding the Truth Can Be Life Threatening: Something Stinks by Gail Hedrick. Book Review.

Click here to buy Something Stinks!

Something Stinks has received the Outstanding Science Trade Book award. With awards being given out left, right, and center, it is refreshing to see a book that has definitely earned its accolade. It is a fiction book, but the reader learns a great deal about water pollution, especially with regard to industry.

Emily is determined to find out why fish are showing up dead on the river banks by her aunt and uncle’s home. Her small town is suffering from job loss, so Emily’s investigations are less than popular. She decides to focus on an exposé for the school newspaper. Whatever industry she points the finger at may mean disaster for the company and, subsequently, the workers.

To make matters worse, her lifetime best friend, Leanne, is pulling away and hooking up with Cynthia, who is rich, spoiled, and bossy. Throw in more complications: her research is pointing toward the textile factory that employees many townspeople, Cynthia’s father owns that factory, the editor of the school newspaper is dating Cynthia, and Leanne wants Emily to leave things alone because she is maxed out on family drama. When trying to obtain water samples, Emily breaks the law and finds herself, and her new friends, in deep trouble.

As Emily researches the reader learns about incidents that can cause the death of fish such as a rise in temperature, dyes leaking into the water, and pesticides used by farms or golf courses.

The book is written in a comfortable style, with believable dialogue and enough suspense to keep the reader engaged. The editing is flawless. Each character is distinct and realistic. Emily becomes the reader’s hero, and like her, we want the fish killings resolved.

This would be a great book for readers aged 8 to 14. As an adult, I wasn’t bored for a minute and read it in one sitting.

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The author was interviewed on this on blog December 14, 2016.

rThe Scent of Something Sneaky was reviewed on this blog on December 5, 2016.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Look Out For Barb! – Jump! By Guy Porfirio. Book Review.

 

Click on the cover to buy a copy of Jump!

This is Guy Porfirio’s first book as both writer and illustrator. As soon as you open the book it is apparent that Porfirio has a talent for remarkable illustrations. The double page spread on the inside cover is a collection of pencil sketches probably used when planning this picture book. They are action-packed and humorous, as is the rest of the book.

The book opens with a double page spread of the desert filled with cacti and a distant coyote. The text reads, “Ordinarily, things are pretty quiet in the desert. But this was no ordinary morning. And Barb was no ordinary cactus. Barb, you see, wanted an adventure.”

Right away, we know something new and exciting is going to happen and we suspect the coyote will be involved. Barb jumps onto the passing coyote who flings her through the air where she lands on a man’s jeans. It continues with a ride in an eagle’s talons, the popping of a river raft, a roof luggage rack ride, perched on top of a motorcycle helmet, on a balloon and on and on around mainland United States. Eventually, Barb misses her friends and hitches a ride on “the very next cowboy home.” She regales her friends with her adventures. Soon everyone is following her example and cacti are popping up everywhere.

This is a humorous book with impressive illustrations. The reader enjoys following Barb’s wild adventures. One page was especially cool where Porfirio divided the double page spread into six slices and wrote and illustrated, “She boarded, boated, bulldozed, bobbed, bicycled, and bounced.” A lovely page of alliteration.

Without using overly difficult words, Porfirio enriches the text in clever little ways. Another example is when we read, “And Barb got a little carried away at the Museum of art.” The words have a double meaning since Barb is floating away on the string of a balloon.

Although it was adventurous for Barb, I think the story could have been more suspenseful for the reader if, at one point, we felt she was in danger. However, it was the author’s choice to keep the story sweet and fun.

After reading this to a child or class, a discussion about trying new things and taking reasonable risks could follow. And of course, researching jumping cactus, which don’t really jump but hook in painfully should you go too near.

This was a really fun book to share with my granddaughter. We loved Barb and wanted her to have the trip of a lifetime, which she certainly did.

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

The author will be interviewed on this blog on April 19, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. Book review.


This very simple story shows a little girl learning how to make paper dolls from her mother. Each doll is named and unique. They are not perfect. For example, Jim has two noses. But they dance, jump, sing, and run away from a dinosaur. The little girl takes them on adventure after adventure until a little boy snips them into pieces. But in her vivid imagination the little girl reunites the pieces and the paper dolls continue their magical, wondrous adventures.

When the little girl grows up and becomes a mother, she teaches her own little girl to make paper dolls and the adventure begins all over again. This might seem like it would be a boring book but my three-year-old granddaughter was totally engaged and intrigued.

Obviously, the follow up to reading this is making paper dolls with your child. The illustrations are soft drawings. The child has two dots for eyes, very far apart, and the bare whisper of a nose and mouth. Yet we understand what she’s feeling by her body movements and the words.

This is a lovely, gentle book that reminds us children do not need expensive toys to have fun. Sitting down and learning how to make paper dolls with their mother and using these dolls in imaginative ways can bring hours of pleasure.

Click on the cover for information on buying the book.

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How to make paper doll chains.

Get a long thin strip of paper. paper-strip

Fold it like an accordion.

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Draw the doll with her hands extending beyond the edge of the fold. I also do the skirt like that for extra strength and stability.

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Cut it out carefully.

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You can have feet too.

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Unfold the paper and colour each doll.

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Try out other SYMMETRICAL shapes.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Click on the item for more information.
       

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

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