P is for Princess: A Royal Alphabet by Steven L. Layne and Deborah Dover Layne. Illustrated by Robert and Lisa Papp. Book Review.

Sleeping Bear Press has numerous alphabet books with the same style. There is a four line poem about the featured letter superimposed on a full-color glossy picture. There is an accompanying text bar down the side. I have favorably reviewed some of these books. I picked up this one because my granddaughter is Princess crazy and I wanted to know if this would have some things we could share. The title is a little misleading. I thought it was going to be about princesses but it is actually about royalty. Princesses are only a minor part. It talks about King’s, Queens, emperors, Czars, and royal objects.

The book is a mishmash of fiction and nonfiction. It begins with sleeping beauty whose actual name is Aurora in the fairytales. I was expecting it to be Anastasia, the historical Princess. The letter B features a royal mouse king and queen and discusses “belle of the ball.” C is for Cinderella. D is for Diana, Her Royal Princess the Princess of Wales. The pictures feature historical figures, fairy tale people, and children playing dress-up. I think it would’ve been better if it had either focused on historical or fictional royalty.

The text box is fairly dry considering who might be drawn to this book. Unlike many of Sleeping Bear Presses other books, this one cannot be used as a resource book or teaching text. A factual, consistent approach for historical figures or a fun, imaginative approach for fictional characters would have made this book more useful.

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

  
  

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Pioneer Alphabet by Mary Alice Downie. Illustrated by Mary Jane Gerber. Book Review.

I love a book that takes you further and further into the subject. This is the type of book that a child learning about pioneers can go back to over and over again and learn something new each time.

On first read, the text boxes at the bottom of each beautifully illustrated page contains several words that begin with the featured letter. For example, “A is for Abigail and Anna, my two sisters. Even though they are awful, I am making them an alphabet book.” “B is for Bangalore. I can do whirrlies with it. Abigail can only make it go up and down, and Anna can’t even do that.” As you follow the text through the book, you learn more about Zebadiah’s pioneer family and the work and play that encompasses their very full days.

For a more extensive understanding of pioneer life, each page has further details at back of the book. For example, it explains the A page like this: “Like other pioneer children, the twins, Abigail and Anna, lived in a log cabin in the woods with their family and household pet – Xersus the cat. They didn’t go to school, nor did they have television, computer games, or friends nearby. But even though they had many chores, they still managed to have fun – and get into trouble!”

Going through the third time, the reader can examine the illustrations above each full-page picture. This reminds me of the style of Jan Brett. For example, above the “A” page you can find an acorn, arrow, ark, animals, acts, and bill, and amethyst.

This would be a very valuable resource for teachers in primary grades. There is just enough information on each page to make for a comfortable first read. Children will enjoy trying to figure out the additional alphabet words above each picture. Further information at the back will be helpful to the teacher.

The illustrations are impressive and engaging. By the end of the book, the reader feels as though he or she knows this pioneer family and how their lives progress. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in pioneer life or for classrooms where North American pioneers are on the curriculum.

Other books where the frames extend the story or information. Click on the cover to buy the book.

PLEASE COMMENT IF YOU CAN THINK OF SIMILARLY ILLUSTRATED BOOKS OTHER THAN JAN BRETT’S.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Gingerbread Man (with a happy ending)

Most children are dismayed when the Gingerbread Man is eaten by the fox even though that’s what we do with cookies. In this version, not only is the Gingerbread Boy saved by the  little old lady who created him, but so are several other new friends he has made on his journey. This is a story of a different kind of family formed by love and compassion with a message of kindness to all.

The story contains repetitive phrases which children will enjoy reciting. The pictures were created using Legos, graphic illustration, and toys.

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Giving Away 3 Paperback copies of Action Alphabet

Opens for entries on May 15, 2017

 Availability: 3 copies available

Giveaway dates: May 15 – May 23, 2017

PARENTS: This book is written for kids who don’t like to sit still and just listen. It employs multiple learning styles. Kids will touch, move, repeat, play-act, and observe using rhythm and rhyme. It can be read as prose or chanted to the rhythm of the military cadence of “I Don’t Know But I’ve Been Told.” Don’t be surprised if you hear your children chanting their favorite parts independently. KEEP IT FUN AND ACTIVE and they will come back for more.

TEACHERS: Project this onto your smart board and use it for your exercise break! It makes a great energizer. Learning while moving is a double-header. Children of a variety of backgrounds and abilities are included.

Video with sample pages and examples of the chant/song https://youtu.be/LiaYDy3f1Sw

Mixing Primary Colors

Mixing Colors

Follow soon -to-be four years old Kayleigh as she mixes the primary colors to create the secondary colors. How to make secondary colors is reinforced with graphics.
My goal is to make 1-4 videos a month that are both fun and educational for children or  helpful to teachers and parents. If you have a topic you would like me to tackle, please leave me a line.

If Greeting Cards Told the Truth About Little Boys. Recycled Sundays.

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Whenever I browse through the card shop, I’m always impressed by the birth congratulations.

Little boys are portrayed as adventurous charmers. Ahead are years of sweet discovery. Parents can’t wait for all these precious joys to unfold.

The cards are true, of course, but I’d like to see one that prepares a new mommy and daddy for the realities of having a son. Just picture it: a foldout card with a toddler on the cover, both knees out of his pants, black marker on his arms and stitches in his lip. Inside, is the deeper truth about sons.

Baby boys grow so quickly. Before you know it, they’ve mastered the qualities of boyhood. For them, steps are not for climbing. They’re for jumping, launching an attack rolling down laundry baskets with the cat inside and volleying vehicles that fly into forty-five sharp pieces.

Any carpet with a minimum of three square feet is used for wrestling. Dolls are great, especially when boys can rip off heads and stick silly putty on the neck – even better if the eyes come out!

Halls are perfect for playing ball, preferably with an obstacle course of breakable photographs and mirrors.

Chairs are points of reference and not to be seated in for more than a second.

Fried and poached eggs are finger food for little boys, but raw carrot sticks must be eaten with a fork no matter how many loud, clanking stabs it takes.

Hard candy is chomped. Jelly is swished. Drinks are sucked with at least four straws. Dribbles in the bottom of a glass can last an hour.

If a boy sees an older one doing a difficult activity, he would rather cut his eyes out with a spoon than admit he’s too young to do it.

If there are two boys in the same room and they’re both still conscious, they are competing.

If there are two loose objects in a room, boys must test them against each other by banging, gouging and grinding.

Finger snapping is second in coolness only to whistling which trails behind belching.

Boys know, if it was assembled, it can be disassemble but probably not reassembled.

Boys teach us patience, persistence, to live in the moment, and that stuff is only stuff. Best of all, nothing beats a little boy’s hug.

    

Click on the cover for more info or to buy the book.

Published Sunday, July 22, 1990 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel. Book review.

This is a humorous alphabet book which actually goes through the letters several times. The first thing you notice is that there are two fake bites out of the book that go completely through the cover and pages in the middle.

When you open the cover, it has a list of words for ate or destroyed such as ate, bit through, chewed, dined on, engulfed, and so on. It ends with, “What a bad kitty.”

A fun followup with a class or child (over eight years of age) would be to pick a common action word for their pet, such as play, or person, such as say, and create a list like the “ate” list inside the cover. If you get stuck, use google or word to find synonyms.  For example:

Play: act, bounce, caper, dally, entertain, fiddle…

Say: announce, bellow, converse…

Turn the page and you see dirty footprints clawed furniture and broken items scattered around the living room. There is also a doodle on the wall of an angry cat and the cat’s tail is disappearing out of sight.

Then the story begins, “She wasn’t always a bad Kitty.” It goes through the alphabet of food the author tried to give the kitty when she ran out of cat food. Basically the alphabet is vegetables such as asparagus, beats, cauliflower, dill, eggplants and so on. On each page the cat makes a horrific sound and face in response to the beans vegetables and spices. I am not crazy about this section. It’s hard enough to get kids to like healthy food when they are bombarded with advertisements for unhealthy food without denigrating it in their reading. Explain carefully that cats have a strong hunting instinct and are carnivores.

At this point kitty becomes bad and begins to destroy the house in alphabetical order. “She ate my homework. Bit grandma. Clawed the curtains. Devoured my new book.” And so on.

When the author returns with new cat food, listed in alphabetical order again, the cat experiences joy and hunger at the offered entrées. They are “an assortment of anchovies, buffalo burritos, chicken cheesecake, a donkey named Dave, elephant eggs, fried rice, etc. This would be acceptable if the illustration didn’t actually show a dead buffalo wrapped in a burrito or a dead lizard wrapped in lasagna. My granddaughter and I found these pictures disturbing and disgusting.

At this point the kitty decides to be good again. He “Apologized to grandma. Bought me new toys. Cleaned her cat box. Drove me to school.” Etc. These pictures are very funny.

In the end the author tries to reward the kitty by bringing a wonky looking dog into the home and saying, “You can go to the park together and you can share your food with him.” At this point the kitty makes that angry face again.

Children can have fun imagining or listing destructive actions the cat engaged in next. Or, things he did to the dog (avoiding extremes). A for ate the dogs treats. B for hid the dog’s bones.  C for carried away his ball. Etc.

This is an hilarious and inventive book that will engage readers. I have qualms about reaction to healthy food (for people) and the whole animals in the cat’s food but, other than that, it’s a fun book for children who are ready for higher level alphabet books.

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

        

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A is for Anaconda: A Rainforest Alphabet by Anthony D. Fredericks. Illustrated by Laura Regan.

This is not an alphabet book for preschool or kindergarten children. In fact, calling it an alphabet book could be misleading. It is, in fact, an extensive resource book for information about rainforests. For example, a is for anaconda. Most letters receive a two-page spread. The detailed and realistic illustration of the anaconda fills one page and two thirds of the other. A four-line rhyme is imposed on the picture. It reads:

A is for Anaconda,
its size – a scary feature,
It swims and slips through rivers deep,
and eats most any creature.

For such a short little poem, it packs a lot of punch.

But that is just the beginning. a text bar down the side of the page explains how the anaconda is the longest snake in the world. It tells us that anacondas belong to a group of snakes known as constructors and relates in detail how they kill. Then it adds a little tidbit adding that A also stands for Australia, home to some of the most distinctive rainforest animals and plants in the world.

The letters are represented as follows:
B is for Brazil and bromeliads (plants).
C is for canopy and chicle (a gum).
D is for dispensers. (I bet you never saw that coming.) It is also for deforestation.
E is for epiphytes (a plant) and endangered.

And so on.

It is great to see an entire two-page spread dedicated to the medicines we have received from rainforests and could receive in the future , if there’s anything left. Also included are the Yanomamo people. The last page is the most powerful.

Z is for the number zero.
I hope you’ll understand –
it’s all the species that are left,
if we don’t preserve this land.

It states such facts as “The number of fish species in the Amazon exceeds the number in the entire Atlantic Ocean.” And finishing off with, “By some estimates at least one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second of every day.”

The last text before the ending bullets and answers to questions reads, “Some experts estimate that more than 130 plant, animal, and insect species are lost every single day due to rainforest deforestation (that’s about 50,000 species a year)! If deforestation continues at current rates, some scientists figure that nearly 80 to 90% of tropical rain forest ecosystems may be destroyed within the next 25 years.” (published in 2009)

Click on the picture to buy the book.

It is unfortunate that it doesn’t cite the biggest contributing problem – the massive intake of meat by an exploding population. According to my research, more than half of deforestation is done to create cattle ranches or, more often, to grow food to feed farm animals. The worst part is, the land can only sustain this for a few years and then they must move on leaving decimation behind them.

The fact “if deforestation continues at current rates” is misleading. The population of earth is presently at 7.5 billion people. Every day, meat producers are expanding their market into new countries and cultures. Because of this, and other more minor factors, the rate of deforestation of rainforests is increasing. Environmentalists and human rights advocates who have opposed cattle ranchers and big corporations have been murdered. Fewer people are willing to speak out. As a result, we will continue to the loose potential cures, trees that provide clean air, unique and wonderful animals, and stunningly beautiful ecosystems. For more information on this, watch the documentary Cowspiracy.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Now I Know My A B Cs

The focus for May is alphabet books mixed in with other books I have agreed to review. Graeme Base set a new standard when he created Animalia, an amazing seek and find alphabet book. Other authors/artists have interpreted the alphabet book differently. I have already reviewed some interesting takes on this type of book. In A is for Africa, Michael I. Samulak and Sswaga Sendiba created a beautiful blend of two cultures using batik illustration and African animals. Kellen Hatanaka’s Occupational A B C Work interprets each letter as a potential occupation. I’ve also reviewed Diana Bonder’s A, B, Sea: A Deep Sea Symphony and L M N O Peas by Keith Baker.

It is fascinating to see what people have done with the alphabet. There are location themes: Canadian, Algonquin, and British Columbia. There are silly stories about animals, Bad Kitty and Snappsy the Alligator, that eat everything in sight – in alphabetical order. Some are based on popular interests such as R is for Race: A Stock Car Alphabet or P is for Princess: A Royal Alphabet. Some try to encourage good habits like ABC Doctor and ABC Letters in the Library. Many tie into the curriculum such as the Pioneer Alphabet. Others just try to include as many words as possible beginning with the letter no matter how zany the results Aster Aardvarks Alphabet Adventures and The Alphabet From A to Y with Bonus Letter Z. Some are quirky such as The Little Book of Big Fears. The Three Bears, An Alphabet Book  puts an inventive spin on a classic story. Some are seriously important such as A is for Anaconda: A Rainforest Alphabet. I’m sure you’ll find a new take on the alphabet book.

During this exploration of the alphabet, I will also share some ideas for engaging your child in learning letters. Here’s one game I play with my granddaughter.

Find the Clues

To create atmosphere, provide a child with a small flashlight and a detective style hat. Dim the lights but not too much. Have slips of brightly colored paper, each with a letter from their name, hidden around the room or house. As the child finds the “clues”, he or she arranges the letters in order on a table. If they absolutely love this game, try the whole alphabet.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Aster Aardvarks Alphabet Adventures by Steven Kellogg. Book Review.

This book is basically an alphabetical tongue twister. The first letter reads:

Aster Aardvark had an aversion to the alphabet. Appalled by Aster’s attitude, Acorn Acres Academy alerted her aunt Agnes, who arranged for an airplane to aid Aster’s academic advancement. After Aster applied herself and achieved and A, all assembled to applaud her amazing aptitude for aerial alphabetical aerobatics.

Each letter is a story or vignette onto itself. This includes a bear basketball team, and animal Symphony, archaeologists, and celebrities. All are represented by anthropomorphic animals dressed in clothing and living in a human world.

The pages are crammed full of detailed illustrations. There are so many patterns and movements that the eye is somewhat overwhelmed. This would be a great book for the type of child who enjoys studying each page and discovering more than what is seen at first glance. It would also be a challenge for children, or adults, to read aloud.

Click on the item or cover for more information.

  

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages