Introducing Super Sporty by Ellie Firestone. Booke Review.

This is an action-packed story interspersed with odd unnecessary moments, such as the first page and a half wherein the Sporty and Harley ride the elevator and have breakfast. It is the kind of tale that an unsophisticated reader might enjoy especially if they like space monsters, horses and superheroes. It is quite similar to the stories my junior grade students used to write for me.

The reader must have wide-open acceptance to the unexpected and the unpredictable. First of all, the horses talk and behave like humans, which is fine. Then suddenly the horses have hidden wings and fly. Okay. Then the new horses are actually disguised aliens. Then the good horses can shoot beams of light from their hooves (that is actually a force field) and from the other hoof, a pair of wings (to attach to the injured horse). It is hard to build suspense when there seems to be no limit to the abilities of the superhero. The reader has absolutely no doubt that the horses will defeat the aliens and prevent the invasion.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with this book is the illustrations. I don’t mean to be cruel but they honestly seem like a child drew them. The horses are barely recognizable and there are visible marker lines. It would be better to take the illustrations out and put in a couple of photographs of horses Photoshopped to look like basketball players or pay someone to draw a few good pictures.

  

This book has potential and will probably be enjoyed by some readers but it needs editing and entirely new illustration.

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack

 Click here to buy Ah Ha!

There are only two there are only two phrases repeatedly used in this clever book, “Ah ha!” and “Aahh!” but plot and emotion are clearly shown through the illustrations.

Frog is just trying to relax in the pond. A boy tries to catch him with a jar, and the turtle, alligator, and flamingo try to eat the frog. Every time he escapes some dire fortune, he finds himself in another life or death situation. The story goes full cycle. When the boy catches the frog in a jar at the beginning, the dog accidentally releases the frog. At the end of the story the frog is cornered by the three animal predators until the boy catches him in the jar again. As the boy carries him away, the frog utters a new phrase, “Ha ha!” The reader assumes that the frog’s situation is almost as bad as being eaten by the predators until the clever frog pushes the lid off the jar and escapes.

Young readers will find this book both suspenseful and humorous. Adults will appreciate the clever chain of events and the inventive use of vocabulary, or lack thereof. It is a book that must be read aloud with great expression. Both phrases, “Aahh!” and “Ah ha!” have different meaning, depending on the context.

Illustrations are double-page, full-color, and expressive. The cheeky personality of the frog comes through loud and clear as does his terror at almost being eaten.

While this is, at first glance, a light-hearted and clever chain of unlikely events, the book does bring home the message that surviving as a little frog is challenging and requires both wit and courage. It encourages discussion on the morality of capturing live creatures for amusement, courage and determination, the food chain, and the importance of never giving up. For an adult, this book is a gentle reminder that life is short and unpredictable. Live in the moment; take the opportunity when it is available to lie back and say, “Aahh!”

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Potty by Mylo Freeman. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Potty!

In this book, a series of African animals attempt to sit on a potty. It has appeared near a small village by a jungle. Beside it is a note that says “only the best bottom of all fit on this potty.” The zebra’s bottom is too big, the giraffe can’t bend his knees enough, and other animals, such as the leopard, snake, elephant, gorilla and tortoise, also fail to fit properly. In the end, a little bare bottom child sits on the potty and uses it correctly.

I’m not sure what the point of the story is other than to make a child snicker, especially when the gorilla puts the potty on his head. Perhaps it is to make the fearsome potty more approachable. If you’re looking for a book that will help to train your child, I’m not sure this will do much.

The illustrations are bright and cute with a lot of emphasis on bottoms. This might be book to take from the library rather than purchase.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth. Book Review.

If you enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or House Rules you will love this book. Told from the points of view of Perry and his sister and caretaker Justine, the book focuses on the strong bond between siblings whose mother abandoned them as children and whose father recently died. I don’t want to talk too much about the story. It is basically about relationships and how we assume things about the other person that may or may not be true.

Both the major characters are engaging, complex, and selfless. I read this book in one night as I could not put it down. I loved both Justine and Perry. Both have big hearts, protective natures, a sense of humor, and courage.

We are never exactly told that Perry has autism but Justine repeats a speech that sums up his challenging life in a single paragraph, “My brother has a brain condition that causes him to feel anxious or different places and circumstances. He has trouble with people – mixing with them and communicating with them – and it sometimes results in inappropriate behaviors. I appreciate your understanding and patience.” It sounds so simple, but it is incredibly complex. Perry struggles with all his strength to behave appropriately and to be a good brother in spite of his brain condition.

When Justine takes Perry all the way from Australia to Canada, her brother must cope with sensory overload, the vastly unfamiliar, and breaks in his routine. Her reason for doing this opens a whole new Pandora’s box.

This is a story about sibling love, a broken family, redemption, sacrifice, and devotion. This book was a well deserving Governor General Award Finalist. A beautiful book that will seize your emotions and tug at your heart. I highly recommend it for all ages.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Good Night, Already! By Jory John and Benji Davies.

 Click here to buy Goodnight Already!

This is not another frustrated complaint by a parent who cannot get a child to go to sleep. It is the opposite, in fact. Bear wants to sleep. For months. But duck is wide awake and wants company. Every time bear starts to fall asleep, duck wakes him up. Duck has numerous ideas about what they could do together but all bear wants to do is sleep. Finally bear cracks and screams at duck, “I said good night already!” Duck leaves and while reading in his armchair, falls asleep. Bear (possibly due to the adrenaline running through his system) is now wide awake.

This is an hilarious book. The expressions on such simple characters convey their personalities perfectly. Duck’s shenanigans will make a child laugh out loud. This book is sure to tweak some memories of similar situations wherein the child and someone else had different sleep needs.

Although the storyline is simple  and predictable, it is told with such comic genius and illustrated so delightfully that it carries you gleefully along. A perfect book for happy chuckles.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Second Jezebel by Peter Mowsbray. Book Review.

 

 

It is interesting that I should receive this book for review just as one of my favorite television series, Reign, is ending. I was interested to know what would happen to Catherine de Medici later in life. The portrayal of Catherine, the second Jezebel, is much harsher in the novel than the television series. I suspect the book is more true to life as the research seems extensive and detailed.

The novel begins with the slaughter of the Huguenots and is quite difficult to read through. Be prepared for a lot of gore and savagery. We learn that Catherine is responsible for the massacre and that her motives questionable . She is of the strike first and worry about the consequences later mindset.

The book is a thorough recount of the actions of Catherine and her less than likable children. Their brutish, selfish ambition and thoughtless extravagance is stunning. Although hated by all of France, Catherine does seem to be the only one in her family who truly cares about the country. Not from a sense of patriotism or responsibility but for the preservation of her family and Royal position.

At times I had difficulty keeping the characters organized in my head and was grateful for the cast of characters listed in the front of the book. But even though I sometimes lost the thread of who was who, the story was fascinating and occasionally cringe worthy. The villains far out numbered the heroes.

Although I prefer a book with a protagonist I can admire, the story of Catherine de Medici and her repellent family was compelling in a different way. One wonders how any country survived at all with rulers like these. Admittedly, Catherine’s machinations were brilliant and she had a much better understanding of diplomacy than those in power.

Peter Mowbray writes with authority and sensory detail. He gets into the head of a severely dysfunctional woman and somehow manages to make us feel sympathy, if not empathy, for her. Aside from the occasional punctuation error, the book is flawless and professional. If you like historical fiction written with power and accuracy, you will enjoy this book.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Click on any book cover for more information or to buy the book.

Once Upon a Potty written and illustrated by Alona Frankel. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Once Upon a Potty — Boy

Well, this is a twist on “Once Upon.” This simple little book is told through the viewpoint of Joshua was mother. It begins with a picture of the mother holding the hand of a naked little boy. Although it is healthy for a child to see the little boy’s penis and anus when talking about bodily functions, calling them a pee-pee for making wee-wee and a little hole for making poo-poo may not be the preferred vocabulary for many parents.

Joshua receives a potty from his grandmother. (Boy, that grandmother sure knows how to thrill a kid.) He tries to use it, but fails. He makes wee-wee and poo-poo on the floor. He continues to mess his diaper. Finally he sits on the potty and refuses to get up until he finally uses it correctly. He carries the potty to his mother who flushes the contents down the toilet. From that point on, he uses the potty consistently.

While not exactly a suspenseful thriller, the book holds a child’s attention because of the naked illustrations.

The mother’s calm reaction to Joshua’s accidents can be re-assuring to a child. The fact that Joshua sits for an extremely long time before succeeding can prepare a child for the necessity of patience.

This book is also available is a girl’s version. I can’t imagine what she calls a vulva.

 Click here to buy Once Upon a Potty — Girl

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Annalise’s Up and Down Day by Denise L. Jenne. Illustrated by Julie Lannone.

 Click here to buy Annalise’s Up and Down Day

My first impression of this book was that it was awkward to read to my granddaughter. It opens like calendar with the binding at the top of the page. But once we mastered the style, we were able to follow the story line. I think this was done so that the illustrator could have a landscape format.

Annalise is preschool girl who spends her day exploring up and down. The sun is up and the moon is down. The strawberries are down, the apples are up. Some concepts were less straightforward and needed explanation, such as, “Sit down. Eat up.” and “Guitar up. Getting down.”

The relationship between Annalise and her parents is warm and engaging. She lives a stimulated life with a good balance of indoor and outdoor play. One thing is for certain, Annalise is a busy little girl. Her exuberance is contagious. Children can relate to her simple, happy adventures.

Annalise seems to be a tiny child on her father’s lap but she appears to be huge climbing up the ladder on the slide. The book’s protagonist and concept seems suited for toddlers, however 24 pages of this repetition is a bit much for a child that age.

Further on the pen and watercolor illustrations, I felt they lacked depth and were sometimes so cluttered they obscured the focus. Annalise’s expressions, however, were excellent. Julie Innone graduated with an Art Education Degree and may need more time for her illustrative style to mature. I also think the split page pictures were confusing and perhaps using a traditionally bound book and having the “up” on the left and the “down” on the right would have been simpler for a child to follow. The pages with such things as, “Easel up. Paints down.” in a single picture, are easier for a preschooler to understand.

All in all, this would be fun to read to your child and then follow with some up-and-down activities of his or her own.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Experience Speaks. Everybody Has a Story… By Audrey N Lewis. Book Review.

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This is a collection of short stories for adults. It is also interspersed with poetry, which I will not address. This review is based solely on the short stories.

The first one, “The Closet”, features an unusual child, Lexi, who is both a genius and a victim of bullying. From the day she is born, she struggles to connect with others. Fortunately, her mother loves her in spite of her nonstop screaming and increasingly antisocial behaviour. I sympathize greatly with mothers who have children with chronic illness autism, or other conditions which make connection challenging. This mother does an admirable job of loving her daughter in spite of the difficulties. It reminds me a little of We Need To Talk About Kevin without the bow and arrows but this mother is warmer.

In the second story, “Fading Frost”, a brilliant artist named Megan is incarcerated in a mental institution against her will by her father. I don’t know where or when this exactly took place but today, at least in Canada, there are review boards and safety procedures to prevent this kind of thing. However, it was fairly common up to even the 60s. The loyalty of her friends and her determination to survive intact make for a compelling story.

The third story, “Girls Night”, examines a strained relationship with an older sister, Miranda. While the sisters have good moments, on the whole Miranda is demanding and unappreciative. Her younger sister wants more from the relationship. It is also a story about memories. In the end, she finds what she needs with her mother. I loved the symbolism of the stains.

The fourth story, “Saying Goodbye”, considers the unexpectedness of death and how we react to it.

Although the stories tackle rather grim subjects and pull us deeply into the darkness of the characters, there is always a ray of hope. These characters are not quitters. In spite of their circumstances and, often their lack of support, they forge forward through life doing their best to cope with what is thrown at them.

Audrey N Lewis’s writing style is eminently readable. Her characterization is adept.

I would say that the lack of dialogue can make the stories demanding of focus. I found, in order to thoroughly enjoy them, I would read only one a day.

I found this collection intriguing.

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Click here to buy Everybody has a story….These are ours

The author will be interviewed on May 17, 2017 on this blog.

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