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.

thumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tiny

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Advertisements

Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson and David Roberts. Book Review.

 buy link Tyrannosaurus Drip

This is a prehistoric version of the Ugly Duckling. When the duckbilled dinosaurs egg is accidentally mixed in with the eggs in a tyrannosaurus’s nest, the duckbilled is raised as one of their own. He is mocked by the family for looking weak and having a mouth like a beak. He refuses to eat meat, dining instead on vegetation. When the family chants “Up with hunting! Up with war! Up with bellyfuls of duckbilled dinosaur!” The little duckbill sings the opposite.

The tyrannosauruses are eager to cross the river and fill their bellies with duckbilled dinosaur but this is impossible because they cannot swim. The little duckbill discovers he can and makes friends with the animals living on the other embankment. When a tree falls across the river, it is the little duckbill who saves the other duckbilled dinosaurs.

While this book is pro-planet-based diet, and I’m all for that, it seems a little harsh on the tyrannosauruses who are following their own natural instincts. In order to make their defeat more palatable the author has painted them as war crazy monsters. Fortunately, they are not killed in the end but simply washed out to sea. They were, after all, his parents for a while.

Children will enjoy the fact that the littlest duckbill is the one who saves everyone. In spite of being bullied, he has grown up with a positive and loving nature. In the end, he is welcomed into his new/original tribe.

Children who love tyrannosaurus rexes might not like their defeat but it is a funny twist of events. It shows that wits can overcome might. Children who find themselves surrounded by bigger, tougher siblings and neighbors may feel comforted by this unusual story.

smilesmilesmilesmile

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Smoot A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas. Illustrated by Sydney Smith. Book Review.

Smoot, a shadow, is tired of the boring, depressing existence he is trapped in and breaks away from the boy who never laughs, leaps, or does anything wild. Free at last, Smoot skips in the park, rides the merry-go-round, climbs a tree and engages fully with the world. His actions inspire others shadows to also fulfill their dreams. As Smoot creates his adventure, the boy follows and watches.

Newly inspired shadows find the courage to perform in public, create fearsome and magical alter egos, and reached the clouds. Smoot becomes concerned that the shadows of wild animals may create havoc. Through creative thinking, Smoot persuades the shadows to return to their origins. When he returns to his own boy, the child has changed. He improved now laughs, leaps, and acts wild. Both their lives are changed.

This feels like a book written for adults more than for children. As a rule, it is adults who’ve lost the ability to laugh and leap. I would interpret the boy as representing adults and the shadow representing the forgotten inner child. Quite often there are things in our life that are beyond our control. But just as often our attitude determines our happiness. The boy in the story has disengaged from life. He’s forgotten that the simple joys are the sweetest.

Although children would enjoy this story, I think the parent reading it to them will actually get the most benefit.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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.

thumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tiny

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.

smilesmilesmilesmilesmile

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Isabella’s Heart by Diane Merrill Wiggington. Book Review.

Isabella’s Heart is the second in the award-winning Jeweled Dagger Series. Like the first book, it is a lighthearted humorous romance that takes place in the 1700s. It contains just enough historical reference to establish time and place and provide an anchor for societal expectations and events. In spite of a few anachronisms, the author succeeds in bringing the reader into this colorful world.

Isabella is the daughter of Angelina, the heroine of the first book, Angelina’s Secret, and has inherited her gutsy, defiant personality. In this story, Isabella sets out to save her twin brother from kidnappers. They share a special psychic connection which allows Isabella to see through the eyes of her brother Charles. Although there is a significant amount of romance, it is a nice variation to see the focus of this story centered on a sibling relationship.

Like her mother, Isabella is no slacker when it comes to combat. She is also insightful, brave, clever, and more than a little reckless. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away but this is a fun, swashbuckling, fast-paced adventure with a kick ass heroine. It’s a great beach read or holiday break.

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

thumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tiny

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.

thumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tiny

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages