The Pain of Golfing – Recycled Sundays

I spotted a T-shirt the other day that read, “Those who can, golf. Those who can’t, golf anyway.” I imagine many of us can identify with that. I certainly can. I have golfed less than a dozen times, but last year I moved up a rank. Not because of a better score – I still reached the counting limits at most of the holes – because I now have my own clubs.

I’m hoping the close proximity of this athletic equipment might soak some awareness into my subconsciousness. So far, all I know is that the fat club is for teeing off, the putter is for the green near the hole, and some club in the middle is for everything else.

I’m always amazed at how serious people take a sport that is so charming. Basically, it’s one level up from schoolyard marbles. And how many other sports do you know that involves puppets? Oh, I know, the pros don’t call them that. Professionals say the little sockies over the clubs are supposed to protect them from banging against each other. In my case, that seems a little redundant. It’s okay to whack balls, tees, clumps of earth, and the occasional tree, but I mustn’t let them bang against each other.

I’ve seen these club socks come in various shapes and sizes. One woman had the entire Muppet set, I swear. I think perhaps they should worry more about the puppets banging together. What if they reproduce? Soon, there won’t be enough room in the bag for all the clubs, balls, tees, drinks, bug spray, sunscreen, tissues, rag, coin purse, sunglasses, scarf, and car keys. I can envision Animal and Piggy tossing things out at the bag every time a golfer turns her back.

Actually, I view the club socks as one more thing to lose. I can imagine myself retracing my steps, asking people if they’d seen my Lambchop or Grover. I often lose my tees, more often than my ball, and I swear the hole keeps moving.

How come, with one swing of my club, I can drive the tee inches into the ground, but after a dozen swings with a hammer, I still can’t drive a nail? I play most of the game as a “teetotaler.” If I’m more than a little out of whack that day, a bruise will start forming on the palm of my hand from slamming the ground instead of the ball. I know it’s cheating, but I’ve started to use the tee on most of my strokes. I figure the greens-keeper appreciates it. Better a few more dozen broken tees than divots.

An acquaintance once told me I could improve if I used the seven iron near the green and choked up on. By that point, I not only want to choke it, but hang, draw, and quarter it as well.

Occasionally I do have a decent game. Inevitably, then, the gods laugh and send thunder and lightning to celebrate. I’ve never considered a par four worth dying for or even having my belt buckle permanently fused to my belly button. But there are those who would play through if Noah started building an ark on the sixth hole. I prefer the safety of the club house where I discovered there are more golf magazines printed than bridal or homemaker issues combined. Unfortunately, my hands were too sore to turn the pages.

The Chronicle-Journal /regional Newspaper

May 2, 1993

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

So Close It Hurt – Recycled Sundays

 

If I counted the hours I’ve spent filling out entries for sweepstakes and draws and multiplied it by minimum wage, then added in money I’ve spent on tickets, I could probably pay for my dream holiday: a cross-country balloon ride.

But the lure of winning some thing still draws me like a gape- mouthed, bug-eyed bass waiting to be clubbed. The chance to win an unusual prize is irresistible. It’s pretty senseless, considering that even when I win, I lose.

The first competition I remember winning was an environmental poster contest in grade 4. Mine illustrated the damage caused by litter to wildlife. I won a set of fishing lures, which I never dared use because I might actually catch a gape-mouthed, bug-eyed bass and have to club him on the head.

A month before my wedding, I correctly guessed the weight of a gold brick and won two enormous blue glass ashtrays. Not only do neither my husband nor I smoke, but our home is a no smoking zone. We used the ashtrays as candy dishes for a few years before selling them for $.25 at a garage sale.

My children seem to have better luck. My daughter won a poster contest which provided her with more chocolate than I like to see her eat in a month. Then, in a final round, she won her 85th stuffed toy, a four-foot-high Peter Rabbit which continues to trip me to this day.

My children have won books, small toys, and theater tickets over the years. This inspires me to keep trying for the big prize: air fare to Toronto for a weekend of theater, or a train ride through the Rockies, or the primitive thrill balloon ride which has fired my imagination since I first read Around the World in 80 Days. At least it did until Canada Day, 1990, a date that lives in infamy.

We attended the anniversary celebration at Chippewa Park. With Anne of Green Gables style enthusiasm, I entered my name for a draw. Not just an ordinary draw. The draw of a lifetime. Four lucky winners would be picked to go for balloon ride. Not up and down on a rope, but across country, riding on the wind. Unfettered, free, gloriously at one with the elements.

“Would you like to enter?” The woman behind the table asked my children.

“Sure,” they replied.

A week later, I received a telephone call. My daughter’s name had been drawn for the balloon ride.

“The handwriting looks like a child’s,” said the young man.

“She’s 11,” I responded.

“I thought so,” he said. “Sorry, but she’s disqualified. She has to be 18.”

I explained how she had come to fill out the ticket. That was too bad. I offered to take her place. No substitutions allowed. I offered to pretend to be her. Sorry he had already selected another name. Why then had he phoned? He thought we should know.

Of course. Just like we should know that french fries have too much cholesterol, taxes have not reduce the national debt, and areas the size of France have been clear-cut in British Columbia. I live for the joy of acquiring this kind of knowledge.

I still haven’t given up on contests. Charitable draws and lottery tickets still find their way into my pockets. I figure after such a cruel twist of luck, the fates owe me. Now if I could just suppress the need to pop every stupid balloon I see.

November 10, 1991.

Only in Canada! From the Colossal to the Kooky by Vivien Bowers. Book Review.


buy link – Only in Canada!: From the Colossal to the Kooky (Wow Canada!)

This hefty, nonfiction 95 page book has a humorous approach to engaging the reader. Scattered throughout the book are the narrators, a Canada goose and the moose, dressed in full clothing and making comments, some helpful and some silly.

There are six chapters in the book. The first is “Amazing Facts about How Canada Was Bashed, Pummelled, Scrunched, and Scraped into the Shape It’s in Today”. The humour and hyperbole draw the reader in to learn about tectonic plates, the Great Lakes, earthquakes, volcanoes, ice and more.

Chapter 2 is “Naturally and Wildly Canadian”. The author promises to share the “weird, intriguing, obnoxious, badly behaved, and utterly improbable plants and animals that exist in Canada.” I was not at all surprised to learn that Canada has one million square kilometers of muskeg.” Just try digging anywhere in my neighbourhood. I was surprised to learn puffins have a regular beak underneath their big fancy one, which they drop off after they win the female. Hmmm. Typical.

The only thing I must warn you about is if you need reading glasses, make sure you have them when you open this book. It is jampacked with tiny print. You won’t want to miss any of the fascinating facts and crazy tidbits. I had heard of Gray Owl but not Billy Miner or Two-gun Cohen. There’s even a paragraph about the lines down the middle of the road.

Chapter 3 focuses on the arrival of people. Chapter 4 is about Canada’s modern growth such as the canals, bridges, and buildings. Chapter 5 is about our weather. Yes it does deserve an entire chapter of its own. Chapter 6 is about interesting Canadians and I’m sure you’ll find some you’ve never heard of before.

This is a fun and informative book that may engage children (and adults) in Canadiana who otherwise would not be interested.

smilesmilesmilesmilesmile

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Princess Crazy

Princesses and little girls who want to be them  – like or dislike? You may love the idea of little girls in fancy gowns and tiaras or you may hate  it. I don’t see it as a simple either/or. Princess Diana did a lot of charity work. She also helped to reduce the stigma against aids and leprosy patients by publicly touching them. I would love for little girls to want to emulate her compassion.

As long as we tell fairy tales, little girls will imagine themselves as Cinderella who was not spoiled. She falls into a grey area… disinherited, worked hard, kind, forgiving, and gutsy. There are definitely some princesses who fall deeply into the SPOILED TOO MUCH category. The Princess and the Pea (also called The Real Princess) tells the story of an ultra diva.

Way back when I was a teacher librarian, I had great fun working with some students on a rap/chant about this fussy royalty. Recently, I made that poem into a video 3 1/2 minute video. I’m sharing the script here with you to use with your daughters and granddaughters, brownies, students, club members, etc. It’s a lot of fun to perform. Please send a picture if you use it.

The video: https://youtu.be/G2-hdRxq5sA

The script:

THE REAL PRINCESS

or

The Princess and the Pea

by Westmount School Primary Young Authors

Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

and Bonnie Ferrante Teacher-Librarian (B. Blake)

April, 1995.

Once upon a time a queen was truly sad.

Where was a real princess to marry her lad?

They searched in Asia, Africa and Japan,

The North Pole, the South Pole, they drove in a van.

They couldn’t find a wife for him anywhere.

They learned a real princess was quite rare.

A real princess. Rare as a jewel.

A real princess. Goes to private school.

 

One looked like a frog. One ate like a pig.

One had rotten teeth and a weird purple wig.

So they gave up searching. They both went home.

To their comfy castle, no more to roam.

Then the lightning flashed, and the thunder roared.

A knock came loudly as the raindrops poured.

It was a wet, ragged girl with knots in her hair.

“I’m a real princess. I was chased by a bear.”

A real princess. Rare as a jewel.

A real princess. Wow! So cool!

 

They invited her in, gave her dry clothes and food.

“I demand a fresh bed,” said the princess. How rude.

The queen piled mattresses, ten, fifteen, twenty.

Slid a pea underneath, and said, “That is plenty.”

The princess tossed and turned. She just couldn’t sleep.

She woke up in the morning and started to weep.

“I have bruises on my back, and I hate that bed.”

“You’re a real princess!” the joyful queen said.

A real princess. Rare as a jewel.

A real princess. One you can’t fool.

 

The princess and the prince were married in June.

The prince found out, she was snobby, by noon.

She complained about dinner. She complained about the ring.

She was never satisfied about a dog-gone thing.

So there’s a lesson to be learned in our story today.

To wed a real princess just doesn’t pay.

A real princess. Rare as a jewel.

A real princess. Throw her in the pool.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Click on the covers for more information about the books.

Another Cruel Invention: Personal Hygiene and Camping. Recycled Sundays.

tent-camping

Now that the weather is warmer, I see some of my neighbours cleaning out and preparing their campers. I’ve never had one, just a tent. I have fond memories of Sleeping Giant Park and, although it was enjoyable, one thing I disliked about tenting was the struggle for personal hygiene. Going for a shower was a challenge equivalent to hiking The Chimney.

In the evening, enough sand had been tracked in by campers to start a new beach in the comfort station. Little creatures had set up residence. But, it was drier than in the morning because the cleaners were very thorough in washing every tile, bench, shelf and hook. Unfortunately, they were not similarly thorough about drying. I couldn’t sit on the wet bench to dress or undress. There was no place to set my clothes. (By afternoon, other campers had dried off the seat and racks with their towels and clothes.) I carried everything in a plastic bag and dressed in the flamingo position.

I can’t keep up with technology. Only a sadistic individual could have invented the electric eyes or beams or whatever you call them. I think of them as the shower genies. Getting them to work right was as likely as getting a wish granted from a Budweiser bottle on the beach.

If you’ve never had the joy of showering in a comfort station which uses these, let me explain. There are no faucets in the shower stall. Instead, at about shoulder level, is a glass circle the size, appropriately, of a loonie. There are no instructions as to how to work this.

I turned on the water in the bathroom sinks. The slapped the top faucet ran for only five seconds. The electric eye took three or four tries to work but ran the water for a full twenty seconds. I rescued a few bewildered tourists standing in front of the electric eye, slapping the top of the faucet, with their mouths full of toothpaste. But, the shower was beyond my capabilities.

I waved my hand over the shower eye, slowly, quickly, up, down, back and forth. Nothing happened. With all the strategy of Napoleon, I plotted my approach. I tried waving it close to the wall. Far from the wall. Approaching from the left. From the right. I slapped it gently, firmly. I positioned my body as far from the beam as possible. After 67 varieties, the water gushed from the shower head. I leapt in, ignoring the slug making its way up the corner of the tiles. At that point, it would have taken a plague of leeches to budge me.

Just as I poured the shampoo on my hair, the water stopped. I searched the recesses of my camping dulled mind. What was the magic movement that triggered the water? I tried, again, and again. The cold air seeped under the door. My skin resembled the plastic bubble sheets used for packing fragile items. The shampoo solidified on my hair. I considered wrapping it in a towel and rinsing it out in the bathroom sink. The one with the slap the top faucet. Naw! It would probably be in use and then I’d be stuck with the one with the electric eye.

I slapped and waved a few more times, adding a chant. Suddenly the water came on. I shampooed and rinsed at a furious pace. I got the shower back on two more times, enabling me to wash off the layers of sunblock, insect repellent, dirt, insect repellent, campfire smoke, insect repellent, cooking grease, insect repellent, mosquito guts, insect repellent, calamine lotion, insect repellent, sweat, and insect repellent. I wondered if I was creating a new toxic blob in the harbour.

After drying and dressing, while balancing on one foot, I realized I had forgotten my shampoo in the shower stall. As I reached for it, the electric eye was triggered, the water shot out, drenching me. My suspicions were confirmed. The electric beam only worked on the first try when I was fully dressed.

Now that I am older, and a little less sturdy, I restrict my experiences at provincial parks to only day visits. I have always enjoyed and have been deeply grateful for the luxury of a hot shower. So much more so at the end of a day at the beach, in my own bathroom.

Published Sunday, March 30, 2010 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Click on the image for more information about the camping product.

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Marital Negotiations – Recycled Sundays

heart

With spring comes the sound of wedding bells. The following is a list of hints for young wives-to-be. No, they aren’t all from my marriage. In fact at the moment, my husband cooks more often than I do. This is by popular demand since, “Mommy makes weird stuff like tofu guck and puts vegetables in everything.” If it doesn’t come from a box, apparently it’s not real food.

Smart brides-to-be plan ahead. I don’t mean floral arrangements, matchbook covers or double rings. I’m talking about the things that last a lifetime. Like bathtub rings.

Most men are mythologists. Deep down, they believe house god’s come in and do the work if you ignore it long enough. They usually don’t even think of the dirt buildup and so I have used the nag by note method. Other wives use a more direct approach.

One woman I know put the dirty dishes between the sheets on her husband’s side of the bed. I wouldn’t recommend this if you don’t have twin beds. Another woman frisbeed them out the back door into the snow. Certainly not recommended for good China and best when at least 4 inches of snow has fallen.

Because of the hunting instinct, men enjoy setting booby traps. Be prepared to constantly trip over boots in the hallway or clothes on the bedroom floor. It’s always fun to play along by enriching his tracking skills. Kick the clothes under the bed or toss the boots down into the basement. Look bewildered when he asks if you saw anything.

Watch for the “what will our friends think?” mode sabotaging your plans for equality. When you’re expecting visitors, divide up the jobs fairly, do yours, and then disappear. You don’t need the stress of watching him spread the wax 30 minutes before they arrived and he doesn’t need the suggestion to use an old toothbrush on the baseboards.

When the children are clothed by Daddy, ignore little things like shirts on inside out, knee patches behind the knees, and blouses as worn as dresses. If daddy thinks it works and the child is warm and happy, let it be. Who knows? They may set a trend.

Fathers teach such important skills as differentiating between Taco and Tortilla chips, 300 uses for Cheeze Wiz, how to look clean without really washing your face, 47 obscene noises you can make with body parts, and how to turn a sock into a puppet while you’re still wearing it. It never hurts for them to also teach their sons non-gender related skills, such as how to roll undershirts into knotty little balls so that more can fit into the drawer.

Positive reinforcement goes a long way. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to show your husband that you appreciate some recognition as well. Many men never actually realize that people track dirt onto the carpet, make messes in the refrigerator, or smudge the walls. Subtle remarks like, “Don’t the hall walls shine since I spent four hours scrubbing them?” may alert him.

If your husband feels “henpecked and hard done by”, encourage him to run off with a maid. It will serve him right. You and I know in two months, shall be tossing his boots into the street and billing him for it.

Don’t be surprised if your husband develops arrogance about his role. He may remind you that your friends’ husbands don’t do half of what he does. Smile graciously and reply, “That’s why you’re lucky enough to have me, darling.”

Published Sunday, May 17, 1992 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Yard Sale – Recycled Sundays

“Ouch! What did I step on?”

“No wonder you can’t shut the closet door! What is all this stuff?”

This is called pre-yard sale conversation.

In spite of my lectures on the value of money, the eternity of plastic, and the bane of clutter, my son collects plastic figures. Somehow we escaped G.I. Joe but not Masters of the Universe, superheroes, army ants, wrestlers, Ghostbusters, and now Ninja Turtles.

These are billion-dollar enterprises. Whenever my son gets close to completing the collection, new figures are introduced. He couldn’t live without a mailman who dropped his pants and transformed his belly into a toothy monster mouth. I saw him looking at our letter carrier with interest.

Manufacturers understand boys. Every year or two they create a new series to whet the collector’s flagging appetite. The stores are now stocked with Dick Tracy figures and, I’ll bet, Gremlins II are not far off. How about a politician series? Each figure would transform into a useless lump.

The bizarre thing is, these toys all have the same questionable play value. Good guys versus bad guy. They only vary in powers or abilities. Does it matter whether the figure can spit, spin body parts or mutilate?

When crossing my son’s room was like entering the Temple of Doom, I offered half the money from any toys sold. Suddenly that Dusty He-man didn’t seem so precious. It was easy to take the clutter induced, “Let’s have a yard sale.”

Conversations in closets, sheds and the basement went like this:

“Whose is this?” (Demanding)

“Mine.” (Hesitant)

“When’s the last time you used it?” (Disgusted)

“Not very long ago.” (Muttered)

“It’s filthy and has a spider’s web!” Stronger disgust.

“It’s still good.” (Quick)

“Great. Then someone will buy it.” (Insistent)

“But, I like it!” (Voice pitched higher)

“Then you’ll have fond memories.” (Decisive)

“Whose is this?”

When I finished the slag pile of saleable items, we made signs. My daughter warned us that her teacher said permanent markers cause brain cells to pop.

“Open a window,” I suggested.

“Pop. Pop. Pop,” muttered my son.

“We’d better do these outside,” I sighed. None of us could afford too much popping.

The usual types came to the yard sale.

Happy Bargainers laughed and socialized. Sometimes they offered less but never cheated.

The Lonely Scavengers had tentative voices and hesitated over each item. Once I showed an interest, they talked about their grandchildren (whose parents were probably tripping over plastic figures already).

The Serious Collectors looked for specific items, china or teaspoons, to complete their sets.

The Weasels got as much as they could for as little as they could any way they could. They didn’t smile and seldom conversed. They took off price tags, moved items into lower-priced boxes and offered a fifth of what was asked. One sent her tiny granddaughter, already wearing the jewellery, up to me with only half the money.

Finally, we packed it in. The leftovers were given to charity and the money was counted and divided. My son was ecstatic. He wanted to go to the mall immediately. There was one plastic ninja turtle villain he just had to buy.

 

Published 1992 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-news.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Never Trust a Charming Man – Recycled Sundays

The power to make someone else feel that both of you are “wonderful” is the Thinking Man’s Dictionary’s definition of charm. It takes talent to accomplish mutual wonderfulness without high fat, sodium, condoms, or financial risk. Feeling wonderful is a gratifying thing, in moderation. Unfortunately, gold diggers, salespeople, con artists, pushers, sexual predators, and corporate climbers have used charm to manipulate others to such a degree that many people are now suspicious of charm. A poet once said to me of a warm, supportive writer, “I never trust a charming man, and he is very charming.” Perhaps the level of acceptable charm corresponds to the amount of control involved.

Charm has also developed a bad reputation due to attitudes toward co-dependency. The Thinking Man’s Dictionary also stated, “All charming people have something to conceal, usually their total dependence on the appreciation of others.” Sounds like 99% of entertainers, yet we’d missed the charm of Eddie Murphy’s contagious laugh, Martin Short’s confused grin, and Mel Gibson’s sultry smile should they learn to get along without our admiration.

There was a time when the charms of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara were emulated. It was shallow and pretentious, but, oh, they had such style. The Gone With The Wind lifestyle did not bring happiness, but at least it brought the occasional heart flutter. Not so with the “in-your-face” attitude of the 90s. Heart flutters today are based on the fight or flight response.

Throughout history there have been those who lacked intangible charm, or sought to strengthen it with other means. Tangible charms have been used for as long as the wink and the compliment. A rabbit’s foot is a charm still used today to bring good luck. Obviously, it wasn’t very lucky for the rabbit or he wouldn’t have been caught in a trap. Lucky pennies are still used, though you’re hard-pressed to find anything for that price. Crystals and gems, considered New Age, have been around since man first dug his first hole with his first sharp stone.

Men, especially athletes, seem to prefer their charms grubby. Apparently the amputated foot of a small, fluffy, vegetarian is not close enough. On the TV show Coach, Luther had all the football players rub his lucky jersey in order to ensure their winning streak. Kelly Gruber refused to clean the grub off his helmet during the 1992 World Cup series for fear washing away the luck.

While many people will admit to using good luck charms on occasion, few admit the opposite. Voodoo dolls and potions are denounced charms used to control others. Miniatures have often been used in the occult as a method of charming someone. It was never acceptable to charm someone into sickness, unless it was love sickness.

Charming someone into nausea became a fashion statement of the late 60s and early 70s. Remember when everyone owned at least one silver or gold charm bracelet? If you think about it, isn’t it strange that women would cart around a pound of precious metal shaped into sports equipment, pets, and buildings that she often saw every day?

Those with gold bracelets selected their expensive charms carefully but those with silver were as insatiable as 12-year-old boys collecting baseball cards. I learned never to comment on the 35 miniatures strung on a woman’s wrist. It was tantamount to asking her life story.

Charm bracelets gave license to stories of poodles who had to be put to sleep, grandchildren who were potty trained early, knitting needles that represented one of her many skills, and hula dancers who invited the owner onto the stage in Hawaii eight years previous. It was as bad as a tour of spoons. Home video seemed exciting by comparison.

These charms have not disappeared. Nowadays, women and men wear one or two on a chain, usually gold, around their necks. They can be a conversation starter without leading into a therapy session. Quality has replaced quantity.

Marion Zimmer Bradley, award-winning writer, wrote a futuristic novel entitled The Shattered Chain. She may have developed the idea from an old charm bracelet. Women were completely subjected to men in her story. What an unusual idea! All females past adolescence wore wrist chains, similar to handcuffs. They were connected by a longer chain that threaded through the woman’s belts, enabling her to work, but not lift her arms over her head or fling them in an outstretched manner. This would make hurling a drink impossible, allowing men to abandon any guise of charm. “Pampered” women had solid gold wrist chains decorated with gold and jewels. Scarlett O’Hara would’ve garrotted herself.

As sick as the idea is, Bradley may have been onto something. Not as a method of subjecting one gender, but as a deterrent and punishment for lawbreakers. Instead of offenders wearing handcuffs, they could be subdued by charm bracelets weighted down with all the symbols of their crimes.

The criminal could be forced to explain the significance of his “guilt charms” to a designated number of citizens. Part of the punishment is in the struggle to get people to listen. This might also negate the interest in the sadistic docu-dramas of murderers and rapists freeing television for better things. In order to complete his sentence, the criminal would have to file the names of the required number of listeners. How would he find people willing to provide the time? I guess he would have to develop some good, old-fashioned charm.

Published Sunday, November 21, 1993 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-news.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

a-young-latino-boy-playing-on-a-playground

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