The Book of Heroines: Tales of History’s Gutsiest Gals by Stephanie Warren Drimmer. National Geographic Kids.

This is the kind of book you would leave on your coffee table and peruse on occasion. It is more of a resource book then a sit down and read book. This is not to say it isn’t interesting. It’s amazingly comprehensive and you’re sure to find someone you had not known about previously.

The chapters are roughly organized by theme, although gritty girls and legendary ladies tells little about who will be examined in that chapter. There are leaders and the wives of leaders, athletes, first to achieve, warriors, sports figures, fighters for peace, scientists, and entertainers. I was glad to see women from multiple cultures and races. I don’t think so much space should have been spent on goddesses and superheroes like Wonder Woman, although I love her.

It is up-to-date including a large spread on  Malala. Although the focus is on American women there is equal attention given to women from around the world over a large span of history. As a Canadian, I noted that they did not include Laura Secord who is considered a hero to us but not to the Americans.

There are fact bars and full pages of writing. It is chock full of photographs and illustrations.

In the  Outstanding Animals category, they include female dogs and other animals who have saved lives and those who have helped in the medical profession. However I think it is cold hearted and disrespectful to include victimized animals. Many of these animals did not have a choice. They weren’t heroes, they were casualties. Astro-dog, for example was sent into space by the Russians who did not have a recovery vehicle. This dog, described as having a calm personality was sent to her death. The book would have been far better to leave these unfortunate victims of man’s ambition out of the book. If they are going to include these poor creatures, then why not also talk about all the female animals that are used in medical research etc. Each year 100 million animals are killed in the United States alone in laboratories to test cosmetics and drugs and chemicals, for medical training, biology research, and sometimes just for curiosity. (Sadly, most results do little to explain how these drugs, etc. will behave in a human body.) Thousands more die in horrifying weapons testing. They may be heroes, but they didn’t volunteer. If you’re going to consider the unfortunate animals forced into space as heroes then every animal that dies so we can have beautiful eyelashes is also a hero. If you give this book to a girl, this topic should be discussed.

Setting aside that well-meaning but inappropriate section, this is a fabulous book to give to a girl or young woman. At the end of the text there is an afterward which says “your turn to be a heroine.” It includes daily deeds for girls such as “find more heroines, develop a heroine habit, stand out and imagine.” It encourages courage, independence, and ambition.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Bye-bye butterflies! By Andrew Larson. Illustrated by Jacqueline Hudone-Verelli. Book Review.


Charlie, a preschool child watches as numerous butterflies soar above the rooftop of the local school. He sees many hands waving goodbye and hears children calling out, “Bye-bye butterflies.” One child looks down at Charlie and his father and waves.

This event remains a mystery to Charlie until  he attends school himself. He discovers that each year children receive caterpillars. They feed them and watch them spin chrysalises. When they emerge as butterflies, they are released.

This is a lovely gentle story meant to encourage a love of nature. The pictures are composed of spaghetti arms and bobble heads with soft water colour and textured illustration. The relationship between the father and son, Charlie, who watch the initial butterfly release, is sweet. The story goes full circle because at the end Charlie is waving to a little boy who watches the butterflies release.

The back of the book has a selection of info boxes such as Are you a butterfly or are you a moth?  and So you want to be a butterfly scientist? as well as information on butterfly defense, the lifecycle, migration of the monarchs, and cool facts. Here the author refers to the chrysalis as a chrysalis while in the text itself it is called a cocoon. I prefer to use cocoon for moths and chrysalis for butterflies. That way there is no confusion for the children. A cocoon and a chrysalis are different.

 Chrysalis chrysalis-1354949_640

Cocoon (By Kerina yin at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)


I thought I should provide some authority for my position so here is a quote from “Reference”

The chrysalis stage is also called the pupa stage, and is a phase of a butterfly or moth’s life between the larva stage, when the butterfly or moth is a caterpillar, and the adult stage. During this stage, butterflies form a chrysalis by secreting a hard protein shell around themselves. Moths on the other hand spin their cocoons out of a silk-like material. Butterflies can also secrete silk, but only enough to adhere themselves to the surface they make their chrysalis on.

I always thought growing a butterfly for release was a great activity to do with children until I researched it in 2006.

Here is information on that subject.

American Museum of Natural History

Butterfly Release: A Misguided Practice

Most butterfly farms sell only to exhibitions, educators and responsible collectors, who keep the adult butterflies in captivity. Breeding butterflies for release into the wild at special events poses serious risks to wild butterfly populations and is not endorsed by conservationists. (more)

As well

National Wildlife Federation

The National Wildlife Federation discourages releases of commercially obtained butterflies for a number of reasons, including:

Releasing butterflies can result in the possible introduction of species into areas where they are not native, possible carrying and spreading diseases at the same time.

Even if a species is native, a farmed population has a different genetic make-up than the population into which it is being introduced. This might result in negative effects on local populations.

Introductions are not the solution to dwindling butterfly populations. Habitat conservation and the elimination of pesticides from the food chain are better solutions.


Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Butterfly releases could unleash problems for state wildlife. (more)

As well, many of the larva die in shipment. Many others don’t make it to the butterfly stage. So this seems to be an example to me of well-meaning but uninformed people. I would suggest instead that you provide a butterfly house and plant milkweed for the monarchs in your schoolyard.

When writing for children, it is vital that your information be up-to-date and ethical. This book was published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside in 2012. I know this information was available because I researched it six years earlier.

Because of the environmentally erroneous actions portrayed in this book, I would not recommend it.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Try one of these books instead. Click on the cover for information.


The Dog Who Made Exploration Possible – The Miracle Dogs of Portugal by Tracey Aiello. Illustrated by Kent Barnes. Book Review.


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.


The Author will be interviewed on this blog on March 15, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


Is There More to Mutilated Pelicans Than Angry Fishermen? – Tangled Lines by Bonnie J. Doerr. Book Review.

TL cover 2

Click here to buy Tangled Lines: Paradise in Peril

Bonnie J. Doerr has written a polished, exciting and important book. Tangled Lines deals with the destruction of natural habitat and cruelty toward pelicans, all in the name of profit. Doerr’s research is impeccable. The portrayal of the culture and community of Big Pine Key, Florida is realistic and believable. The reader is given an insight into the daily struggle of fishermen, the risks taken by Cuban immigrants to reach the United States of America, exploitation of the natural world, the senseless slaughter of wild creatures, and the courageous and giving nature of volunteers trying to protect endangered wildlife and the environment.

As well as a fascinating glimpse into this world, the author creates a realistic and touching story of unrequited love. Kenzie Ryan, the hero, has developed romantic feelings for her comrade in environmental protection but he, Angelo Sanchez, just wants to be friends. In turn, Angelo has fallen for a wealthy and beautiful girl from an influential family who also happens to be a good person. There is also a budding romance between Kenzie’s friend Ana and an older boy, who seems oblivious to her wheelchair. The complications and emotions of teenagers in relationships is shown with tact, understanding, empathy, and a sense of humor.

This book is an “eco-mystery”. As such, clues are given as the true reason behind the slaughter of pelicans unfolds. Kenzie and Angelo take great personal risk in order to protect the vulnerable animals. The suspense escalates to a satisfying climax wherein some people are showing to be worse than anticipated and some are shown to be better.

This book was 400 pages, but it flew by quickly. The editing was perfect. The pace was comfortable. The characters were likable and made us care about their future. The mystery was educational and worthy of our attention and time.

Although this book is written for middle grade children, young adults and adults would find it interesting and enjoyable. Highly recommended.


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

Bonnie J. Doerr was interviewed on this blog Wednesday, February 8, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Happy Happy Holidays. Felices, Felices Dias Festivos. By S.J. Bushue and Deb McQueen. Book Review.


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

Obviously, this is a bilingual book. It is part of a series featuring So Big, a mammal, and Little Bit, a frog. It is basically an explanation of the major American holidays in both English and Spanish. For example, on the first page it reads, “New Years Day, January 1st” and then at the bottom of the page “el Día del Aῆo Nuevo el primero de enero.” So Big is wearing a diaper and a party hat and blowing a noisemaker as he carries an hour glass. Little Bit is jumping into the air and wearing a party hat and carrying a spinning noisemaker. Confetti fill the air and there is a balloon that reads Happy New Year. The characters’ clothing changes as they explain each holiday.  It was great to see some variation in cultural holidays listed.

The book features the following holidays:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Groundhog Day
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Mardi Gras
  • Patrick’s Day
  • April Fools’ Day
  • Easter Sunday
  • Earth Day
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Mother’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Flag Day
  • Fathers’ Day
  • Independence Day
  • National Grandparents’ Day
  • Labor Day
  • Native Americans’ Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Halloween
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Hanukkah
  • Christmas
  • Kwanzaa

At the back of the book there is a list of the holidays with two or three sentences explaining their significance and practice. I had to laugh when I read the blurb on Fathers’ Day. “Fathers’ Day recognizes the contribution that fathers and father figures make to their families. The day is often symbolized by cooking out, gifts, homemade cards and ugly ties.”

As a resource for Spanish speaking immigrants, this book would be wonderfully helpful. I can also see it being used by people who are learning Spanish as a second language.

I did not know that Native Americans Day and Columbus Day were celebrated at the same time. Interesting. I also noticed there is no apostrophe on Veterans Day.

If you go  here you can listen to the book being read aloud in Spanish. There are also coloring pages. You will find a four-line song here that can easily be adapted for a classroom game.

This is a useful and informative book for Spanish speaking children, and adults too, who want to learn about American holidays, cultures, and traditions.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

L M N O Peas by Keith Baker. Book Review.

Click here to buy LMNO Peas

This is an adorable, funny alphabet book. It is difficult to come up with original ideas for the ABCs. listed 47,112 results in a search for alphabet books.  Keith Baker has designed a unique one using his Peas series.

The picture book’s large size emphasizes the tininess of the adorable little peas who are acting out each of the letters. For example, A has seven little peas with hoops climbing up the letter A that say, “We’re acrobat’s.” One lonely little pea is painting a tulip that is twice his size. Two other peas are conducting a spacewalk from a capsule (astronauts).

Children will enjoy finding the peas on each page and deciphering their occupation or hobby. The artist has cleverly incorporated the letters into the activities. For example the right side of the K is a river for kayakers. The book ends with, “We are peas from A to Z. now tell us, please… (Turn the page) who are you?

This book will definitely engage readers. The pictures post just enough challenge to keep both children and adults interested throughout. The fun thing is, peas are so easy to draw, that children could make their own response using their initials and their own hobbies or interests.

If the child is too young to draw the illustration, give their thumb in green fingerpaint and have them press on the “peas”. Then an adult can add the detail. Together, you can decide what to draw based on the letter. It can be simple. After, if the child wants, she can colour the letter with marker.

K peas B peas


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

How Do You Deal with an Unfair Father? – The Passover Surprise by Janet Ruth Heller. Illustrations by Ronald Kauffman. Book Review.


Click here to buy The Passover Surprise

This is an early chapter book with some simple black-and-white illustration suitable for children aged seven and eight.

In The Passover Surprise, a brother, John, and sister, Lisa, compete to win a special stamp collecting book from their father. In order to prove their worthiness, they both work hard hour after hour on their stamp collections while their father assesses their commitment. In the end, the father gives the stamp book to the boy reasoning that he put in equal effort but he is younger child. Lisa is devastated and feels the decision was unfair. After a conversation with her mother, Lisa decides to approach her father and discuss her feelings. Her teacher also coaches her in how to handle this discussion. The father is completely understanding and says, “When I was young, only the boys in my family collected stamps. I didn’t realize that the album meant so much to you.” Even though the family is struggling to make a payment on their house, father manages to give his daughter a new stamp as well during Passover.

This is a good story on perspective. The daughter felt the father was unfair and sexist. Father thought he was making a fair and informed decision. Because the father was kind and receptive, the problem was resolved happily.

There is an explanation of Passover and Seder, a short discussion on discrimination against African American soldiers in the Second World War, and sharing of family history.

This would be a good book for Sunday school or other values teaching. Children will connect with Lisa and find helpful advice on how to approach difficult discussions with their own parents.


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

An interview with the author will appear on this blog on January 25, 2016.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Is Different Bad? Frog Has No Fur (La Rana No Tiene Pelo) by S. J. Bushue and Deb McQueen. Book Review.


 Click here to buy “Frog Has No Fur”: “La Rana No Tiene Pelo”

(So Big & Little Bit Adventures)

This is a bilingual picture book. Unfortunately, I cannot read Spanish so I am only reviewing the English part.

So Big, a mammal, and Little Bit, a frog are friends even though they are not alike. The text explains their differences: brown and green, fur and no fur, mammal and amphibian, lives on land and lives on land and water, active during the day and active during the night, a heart with four chambers and a heart with three chambers, ears and only eardrums, focusing eyes and whole eye turning, first to walk on land and walking on land 100 million years later.

It ends with:

We do not have to be the same. We are friends… Just because we like each other.

The fictional message is about acceptance of differences but, as the child reads, an enormous amount of factual detail is presented. (I didn’t even know about the heart chambers.) There could be two types of follow-up discussions to this book. One could be about relationships and differences. Two could be about the animal kingdom and classification. Of course, the parent should try to draw out the fact that the child is also a mammal and not an amphibian.

The illustrations are big, black outlined, colorful, and simple. They have a happy, fun quality.

If you go to this page on The Little Fig website, you will find a coloring page you can download, a link to the accompanying song on YouTube, and the YouTube link to the book being read aloud in Spanish.

This is a wonderful product that addresses a need in picture books. Check out their other bi-lingual books while you’re there.


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

S.J. Bushue was interviewed on this blog on November 30, 2016.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Stars Only Shine in the Dark – THE DARKEST DARK by Chris Hadfield and Kate FiIllion. Illustrated by Terry and Eric Fan. Book Review.

 Click on the cover for more information or to buy a copy.

This picture book is written by Chris Hadfield, one of the, world’s most famous astronauts, and Kate Fillion a best selling author. Together they tell the true story of Chris’s childhood fear of the dark.

As a small boy, Chris love to play astronaut. He liked to pretend he was fighting deadly aliens, but his imagination created a fearful atmosphere when his room was dark. “The kind of dark that attracts the worst sort of aliens.”

His parents struggled to get him to sleep in his own bed. They even gave him a bell to ring if he was nervous. But nothing seemed to help.

One special day, Chris’s family joined several others watching the moon landing on television. Chris was amazed and he also noticed that outer space was darkest dark ever. That night, he was able to cope with his dark room. He became hooked on exploring the night sky. He seriously pursued his dream of becoming an astronaut and one day, it came true.

That is where the story ends. Fortunately, Hadfield has written two other books about his experiences as an astronaut. After reading this picture book, children can find more about Hadfield from these books or online.

What a wonderful twist for a little boy who is afraid of the dark to grow up and travel into space, in fact live there for five months. How inspirational for children who have similar fears. This book teaches them that as they grow and learn, they will change and be able to conquer the things that hold them back. How reassuring to know an astronaut was once afraid of the dark.

The vocabulary in this book is suitable for children ages 5 to 8. There is just the right amount of text on each page. Both the text and the illustrations are infused with a subtle sense of humor.

When it was time to get out of the bath and go to bed, he told his father – politely, because astronauts are always polite – “Sorry, no can do. I’m on my way to Mars.”

On the page where Chris dreamed he flew a spaceship to the moon, his rocket is made from cardboard, his dog is also suited up and floating beside him, and Chris carries a flag with pictures of the two of them and their names printed in childish script “Chris and Albert.”

Although the book is in color, gray and black are dominant throughout. At first, because of Chris’s imagination, the dark holds frightening creatures with glowing eyes. As Chris matures, those glowing eyes are replaced by twinkling stars and glowing galaxies.

The last two pages read as follows.

And, he realized, you’re never really alone there. (in the dark)

Your dreams are always with you, just waiting.

Big dreams, about the kind of person you want to be.

Wonderful dreams about the life you will live.

Dreams that actually can come true.

This is a well written, beautifully illustrated picture book that will teach your child about a brave, brilliant, and personable Canadian hero as well as inspire him or her to pursue big dreams.


I won a free copy of this book.

Click on the images for more information or to buy the product.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


If You See a Dragon – New Release


If you saw a dragon, what would you do? Would you catch it and keep it as a pet? Would you sell it to the circus? There’s lots of exciting ideas to choose but which one would the dragon want? – A book that helps children develop empathy and kindness to animals. Half the profits go to animal rescue funds.