The Second Jezebel by Peter Mowsbray. Book Review.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

Not Afraid to Write the Truth: Activist/Author Eric Lotke Three Random Questions Interview

Eric Lotke is a writer, an attorney and an activist. His writing and advocacy have impacted the American criminal justice system even leading to new laws.

Lotke Eric headshot

Bonnie Ferrante: Your first book, 2044: The Problem isn’t Big Brother, It’s Big Brother Inc. discusses the problem we seem to read about at least once a month where amazing inventions and progressive practices are shut down so that powerful industry can continue accumulating wealth. Does your book offer any solutions? 

Eric Lotke: My novel 2044 starts where George Orwell’s 1984 left off. In 1984 the problem is the leviathan government, personified as Big Brother. In 2044 the leviathan is the private sector, which has taken over everything, including the government. The story in 2044 follows an engineer who discovers a cheap, easy way to take the salt out of seawater. The new discovery is good for everyone — except the giant corporations who control the water supply.

 I snarkily call one corporation Big Brother, Incorporated, and even give it the sunny Orwellian slogan, “Big Brother is Looking Out for You.” But both stories were intended as wake-up calls not as predictions or policy briefs.

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Ferrante: Your book, The Real War on Crime: Report of the National Criminal Justice Commission, must have ruffled some feathers. How was it received?

Lotke: The Real War was groundbreaking. Published in 1996, it outlined the issues that define criminal justice to this day – mass incarceration, hyperactive policing and radical racial disparity. It offered solutions that remain relevant today – treatment not jail, and true community policing. We described minority communities as “overpoliced and underprotected.” They still are.

The Real War definitely ruffled feathers. It was an early step around a corner that’s (finally) starting to be turned.

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Ferrante: Making Manna is your latest fiction novel. Why did you change from nonfiction?

Lotke: I still write non-fiction in my day job. Fiction is just more fun. 2044 ends in despair but I’m not a pessimist. So I wrote Making Manna to give myself a happy ending. Making Manna is a Horatio Alger story. It explores real-life issues but it gives the reader (and writer) a very different experience.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-lotke/making-manna-a-new-horati_b_5814958.html 

Ferrante: Why did you choose to write about 14-year-old girl who flees an abusive home with her baby instead of a using man as your major protagonist?

Lotke: I didn’t choose the characters. I chose the story … and the characters are simply the people who would populate a story like that. Making Manna explores the justice system from the victim’s point of view. Who needs justice more than the victim of a childhood sex crime? I started with the worst crime I could imagine. Then I wondered: What does she need? What does the system offer her? What happens next? That’s Making Manna. BTW the 14-year-old girl shares the stage with her newborn baby, a boy. As the story matures, so does the baby. One smart reader called it a “coming of age” story of both mother and son at the same time.

Both characters are finding their way in the world. The son wants to learn the truth of his parentage; the mother needs to heal her own wounds and make peace with her past. The story feels real because it solves real problems the way real people would.

But don’t worry. The bad stuff happens off-screen. You know it happens but you don’t have to watch. Yuck! I want you to have a good time. My challenge was to turn dire circumstances into an uplifting tale of healing and hope.

Ferrante: What does the title mean?

Lotke: Thanks for asking.  The title operates on many levels. At a fundamental level, Making Manna is about food. Food appears throughout the book, as a matter of both physical subsistence and personal independence. As the story develops, so does the characters’ relationship with food. First they eat from the McDonald’s Dollar Menu. Later they learn to boil spaghetti, and still later to bake their own bread. That’s literally “making manna,” I think.

Obviously it’s a biblical reference, too. But in the Bible, manna comes from heaven. In the real world, people need to make their own. Whether manna is food or money, we have to take care of it ourselves. Manna doesn’t fall from the sky.

This isn’t rugged individualism, though. Sure, they have to make their own manna. But they aren’t truly alone. People survive in partnership. Everybody is always giving and receiving help from others.

Ferrante: What was the most challenging thing about writing fiction? What have you learned from this experience that you could share with other writers?

Lotke: I didn’t find it all that different from non-fiction. Even when I work with data (I usually do) I think of it as helping the numbers to tell a story. These are the figures: what do they mean? How can people relate? I feel like I’m doing the same thing both times.

What have I learned that I can share? Give it a try. See if you like what you wrote – but honestly make changes or quit entirely if you don’t.

Ferrante: You must’ve done a huge amount of research for your nonfiction works. Did you draw on this for Making Manna or did you have to do new research? How much do you research before you actually start writing?

Lotke: Making Manna comes from my non-fiction life. I worked in and around the justice system for more than a decade, and before law school I earned my living as a chef. All of that goes into the mix that became Making Manna. With that factual baseline I could research specific questions as needed. For example, I knew enough about criminal trial work but nothing about appeals: I needed to research that. But just enough to support the story. Making Manna is not a legal thriller.

I wanted to be accurate even at the most trivial level. When they first learn to bake bread, one character shouts instructions across the kitchen to another. She’s shouting a real recipe. You can bake from it if you want. Angel’s favorite recipes on page 208 are my favorites, too.

Making Manna is also about parenting. Anybody who has loved a sick child or struggled to find (or pay for!) day care will know what I’m talking about. It would have been a very different book if I weren’t a dad. But that isn’t research. That’s life.

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Ferrante: All of these books must’ve been emotionally draining to create. What do you do to stay positive in your personal life?

LotkeIt was strange. I found that when I wrote a sad scene I was gloomier at bedtime. When I wrote a happy scene I was in a better mood afterwards. To put myself in the mental state of my characters I needed to go there myself.

How do I stay positive? Just like everyone else with a stinky job or sickness in the family. I think positive, eat well and get plenty of exercise. I’m lucky because I have a crush on my wife and two fabulous children. They’re even nice, even if somehow they got to be teenagers.

Ferrante: What are you working on now? Do you plan on continuing in the fiction genre?

Lotke: I’m conceiving a new story that’s fundamentally about labor unions. I’d like to continue working in fiction but it’s so hard to market except in a fixed genre with a target audience – young adult fantasy, adult romance, horror, police detectives, whatever.

When I get a good weekend, I’ll take my own advice. I’ll bang out chapter one and see if I like it. Stay tuned … but no deadline, please.

Some readers of Making Manna have asked for a sequel. That’s tempting, too.

three random questions

Ferrante: If you could be the editor in chief of any magazine in circulation, having significant input as to the style and content of the publication, which magazine would you choose?

LotkeThat’s easy. I want to be in hard news. I’d want to edit Time or Newsweek. I think they can be less stupid and still sell copies.

Ferrante: Which punctuation mark would best describe your personality?

LotkeHeavens! I’m a semicolon. Semicolons are infrequently used and subtle in their purpose. Semicolons connect parts that are different yet related, and that can be considered together or apart. They are often misused, but perfect when used correctly.

Ferrante: Considering all the big screen movies that you have ever seen, which one do you believe had the greatest emotional impact on you?

LotkeHmmm. I can’t think of any knock-outs. But I do enjoy Shakespeare in Love, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the original Terminator. And I never want to go more than a few years without seeing The Princess Bride again. I was jealous when my wife and daughter watched Thelma and Louise without me, but I understand why they did.

Ferrante: Thank you, Eric, for participating in my interview series. I am in awe of your courageous and important writing. Congratulations on writing Making Manna.

Making Manna was reviewed on this blog on January 13, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

What Would You Do For the Last Easter Candy? – Recycled Sundays

To me, Easter has always meant hidden treasure. As a child, I was a candy connoisseur, marking my calendar with red circles for Halloween, Easter, Valentines Day, and Christmas – the sugar holidays. Still, I found secular Easter celebrations rather odd.

I’d always wondered what it would be like to have Easter with green grass and living baby chicks and lambs instead of no plastic blue Robin’s eggs and cardboard cut-outs of newborn animals. It seemed strange to celebrate the rebirth of nature when everything was gray and partly frozen. So sweet a holiday during the month of mud.

Our American neighbours search for edible treasures in their gardens and backyards and British children think nothing of finding their eggs below flowering bushes. Anything hidden outside in northern Ontario has to be found within the hour lest rain, or possibly snow, turn chocolate eggs into chocolate syrup.

My mother and her brother grew up on a farm in the Maritimes. After finding the hen’s eggs in the morning, they would go back to bed with hot cocoa while their mother coloured the eggs with natural dyes and hid them around the house. The children would find them and stage a competition as to who could eat the most. I’m not sure what’s worse, making a child sick on candy or sick on hen’s eggs. Perhaps the real lure was the chance to go back to bed after chores with a cup of cocoa, listening to their mother sneak about the little home.

My mother, her mother and her brother – abt 1928

My mother believed the more cups of sugar in a recipe, the better. I suspect she circled the sugar holidays as well. She certainly never skimped at Easter when I was a child.

When I was candy hunting age, my brother and sister were teenagers. That solved the problem of the oldest child finding all the treats before the youngest. I got the whole enchilada. This was one time I wasn’t sad to be without a close sibling.

I remember being impressed that the Easter rabbit could manage so well. Each year as I became better at finding treats, he became better at hiding them. He also grew as I grew, putting them in higher places.

As exciting as it was to find the Easter treats it was even more fun not to find them. Nothing brought on a shriek of glee better than discovering a stray candy after I thought I had eaten my last icing coated egg. Perhaps I would open the sugar bowl, preparing to smother my overly sweet Captain Crunch with an additional 2 teaspoons of refined white sweetener. Snuggled in the crystal would be a clutch of candied eggs. What better way to start the day than with sugar bonus?

Even better were Easter treats in plain view that had escaped notice. I’d be watching television, yearning for just one more hollow chocolate egg to jam over my fingers like a ring and munch as it melted over my knuckles. My eyes scanned the room during the commercial break, hoping, refusing to believe it was over. I paused to look at the stairway to the star.

My grandfather had presented each of his children with a handmade wooden staircase about a foot and a half long with a moon behind. There was a separate wooden star with a little platform hung above the staircase. My mother was Catholic, so the steps held statues of saints. On the top step rested the Madonna and on the star, of course, was Jesus. I remember the thrill of realizing that a little chocolate rabbit was perched devoutly at the protective feet of Mary. I snatched the candy creature can blew the dust off the wrapper.

Less attractive were the unwrapped treasures, forgotten in the spider plant, blossoming with their own mixture of dust and pet hair, or the now deformed Easter treat squashed between the couch cushion among lost pennies and leaking ballpoint pens. It was a tough call, but most could be rescued with a good washing.

There were treats that permanently escaped my clutches. They were claimed by Nervy and Nipper. These were not sailors who boarded at our house. Rather they were noisy, wiry, stubborn, territorial Chihuahuas. What was theirs, was theirs. They had no qualms about taking on grown men or well muscled German shepherds who behaved inappropriately. I have better luck wrestling a living rabbit away from the protection of the Madonna than getting any Easter candy away from the dogs. Not that I wanted after it had been batted about, partly chewed, and buried in the dog’s bed.

I did have some limits.

First published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, Sunday, April 11, 1993.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

And the Winner is Audrey!

The Book Awards Survey on is finished.

I will now be analyzing the results and also doing research on my own for each of the awards. When this is complete, I will begin a new series running once a week. It will feature an award, include my research and the responses I received from the survey.

Super thank you to those people who participated in the survey. About a third of you sent me the prize draw code at the end of the survey, which was “Peter Pan.” I had my husband blindly pick a name. The winner is Audrey Lewis. I am happy to say she is a writer that I have interviewed on my Wednesday blog series and a prolific and varied writer.

Tote bag, t-shirt, mouse pad, picture book, joke book, and glass sleeve.

Audrey, please send me your postal address by email so that I can send out your swag. Congratulations.

 

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

 Click here to buy Once Upon a Potty — Boy

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

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

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

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

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

 Click here to buy Once Upon a Potty — Girl

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A Childhood Toy Never Forgotten: Author Gina Lobiondo Three Random Questions Interview

Gina LoBiondo has published two award-winning picture books. She is presently working on her first novel.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Gina. Pegasus was your first published book. You hired an illustrator to create 25 black and white illustrations to keep down the cost of the book. In 2011,you changed it. Why?

Gina LoBiondo: Hi, Bonnie, first thanks for having me here!  Yes, the original illustrator did the artwork in black and white.  I have several editions of Johanna Spyri’s HEIDI, which have black and white illustrations, so the decision to do Pegasus that way was mine.  I thought the artwork was adorable but no one else seemed to like it!  I had several judges at book award competitions that really criticized it so I made the decision to redo the artwork in full colour.  In addition to that, I also changed the size of the book from the original 6×9 to the current size of 8×10.  After I made the change the book started to sell and win awards so I guess I made the right choice.  I think the most difficult part of creating the book was that neither Stephanie nor I knew about saving the artwork at 300 dpi.  Once she gets the time, we plan to redo the illustrations and I’m going to add to the book, with sections similar to what I did with Button Nose the Sad Little Bear.

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Click here to by Pegasus — A Dragon’s Tale

Ferrante: Pegasus won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award in the Category of Children’s Interest. Please tell us about this award and how your book was chosen. Why do you think it has so much appeal?

LoBiondo: Well, according to the website, the Pinnacle Awards are chosen based on book content, quality, writing style, presentation and cover designPegasus is the story of two young bear cubs who find and raise a baby dragon and follows the friendship of the three characters.  Since I’ve been writing for so long I’ve pretty much got the quality, style and presentation down pat.  As for the cover, I designed it myself, as I’ve done with all my books.  I think the story is so appealing because it touches on something that many children’s books today don’t – real friendship and the bonding of the three characters.

Button Nose the Sad Little Bear is based on a toy you had as a child and found again on eBay as an adult. Why did this bear appeal to you so much? Why do you think it connects so much with children today?

LoBiondo: You know, Bonnie, it was just one of those things where this little bear was just so appealing to me.  I think it was his sad little face that must have touched my young heart ‘cause I hugged him and cuddled him all the time.  Even today I still love him to pieces and was so thrilled when I found him on eBay. I also had a medium sized bear and a very large bear that I called his mommy and daddy, but I wasn’t attached to them like I was to him. I really don’t know if kids today have that kind of bear – Knickerbocker went out of business years ago!  I love the Build-A-Bears and even got one for myself after giving several as presents, but all their bears are smiling and I don’t know what else is out there.  I think the more sensitive kids like me are missing out.

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Click here to buy Button Nose the Sad Little Bear

Ferrante: Did you approach your second picture book differently than your first?

LoBiondo: Actually, yes I did.  I had already learned about saving in 300 dpi, so I made sure when Brittany had her artwork scanned she did it that way.  Then, I added more reviews at the beginning and then the photo gallery and other books section at the end in order to expand the book.  With Pegasus being only 34 pages, I had a hard time finding a printer who would print the info on the spine.  Many bookstores refused to carry it because it lacked the spine info.  I use CreateSpace to print Pegasus and they won’t print the spine info on books less than I believe either 120 or 130 pages.  Fortunately, I use Lightning Source to print Button Nose and they will print spine info at 48 pages. With the added information, Button Nose came out to 54 pages.

Ferrante: Both your picture books have received a large number of awards. Do you feel the effort and expense of entering these award opportunities is worth the increase in sales of your books? Or are you looking at the long tail?

LoBiondo: I’m still weighing the awards – I have spent quite a bit entering the competitions but, sadly, I don’t think they’ve really made much of a difference in sales, at least for the short term.  Since Pegasus has been out for 5 years, I’ve sold more books and have sold some of Button Nose, but not nearly as many and sales seem to be stalled on both books.  I’m hoping that will change closer to the holidays.

As for the competitions, I do enjoy entering them and especially winning.  I actually created one label to put in the corner of the books that says “Multi Book Award Winner” instead of putting award labels all over the cover.  I think the single sticker looks much more professional.

Ferrante: I understand your next book will be a novel based on the Cinderella story. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

LoBiondo: Yes, the title will be Cinderella – A Love Story and it’s my own retelling of the classic faerie tale.  It was always my favourite story as a child – I had a beautiful book illustrated by Catherine Barnes that I read a gazillion times – so it was only natural that one day I’d write my own.  I originally wrote this story as a full-length, 2-act stage play – I had taken a theatre course in my last year of high school and loved it so I decided I’d try my hand at it.  By that time, I had already been writing for 6 years.  My version is the traditional tale but with a twist that no other version has that really makes it unique.  It doesn’t happen until chapter 8 so you have to just keep reading.

Ferrante: You have posted chapter 1 of your Cinderella novel on Create Space asking for feedback. Have you received many responses? Have they been helpful?

LoBiondo: Sorry to say I’ve only received 7 responses – they’ve all been good, though, except for one guy who complained.  He said the story was so familiar he didn’t feel the need to read any further.  However, when I was trying to find an agent years ago, I had one tell me “Taking on faerie tale icons is a tall order and you’ve done a good job.”  So that was encouraging.  Everyone who has read this book has given it positive reviews so I think it will do well.  My only problem now is the one I’ve had for years, that being I can’t find the right illustrator.  It’s kind of frustrating ‘cause I really want to get this book out!!!!!

Ferrante: I think 7 responses is worthwhile. It isn’t that easy to find feedback on a work in progress.

three random questions

 

Ferrante: If you could at this very moment to take a ride on anything in the world, what would you most want to ride?

LoBiondo: My bicycle!  I used to ride all the time before I got my driver’s license; when I was a teenager there were still Blue Laws on Sunday, where all the stores were closed.  So my brother and I would ride up to our local shopping centre and just ride from one end to the other as fast as we could!  It was awesome and boy, do I ever miss doing that!!!!!

Ferrante: What is one major problem, either in your own nation or throughout the world, that you honestly feel we will have pretty well solved within 20 years?

LoBiondo: I’m hoping for a cure for either Alzheimer’s, diabetes or ALS.  I lost relatives to all three so it would be awesome if they could all be part of history during that time.

Ferrante: What is one vacation destination that many of the people think is just fabulous, but which you personally have no desire to ever visit or (revisit)?

LoBiondo: I would have to say Mexico or South America, and this is in no way saying anything against the people there.  They’re just not places I’d have any interest in visiting and I, personally, can’t see the appeal.

Ferrante: I enjoyed seeing the Mayan ruins in Mexico and I love the food. I guess it all depends on what appeals to you.

Thank you for talking with me today. Good luck with Cinderella.

Book Trailers

https://youtu.be/3EHLKZj6aRE  for Pegasus

https://youtu.be/pabJ5ZOhCdA  for Button Nose

Pegasus, A Dragon’s Tale was reviewed on this blog January 16, 2017.

Dueling Parasols & Steampunk Mysteries: Author Jayne Barnard – Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Meet Author, Bonnie Ferrante – Book Excerpt

I used eye color to determine potential “gifts” because I’ve always felt that eyes truly are windows to the soul. Eyes easily reveal whether a person is excited, frightened, shy, or aroused. Experts take note of the directions eyes focus to discern if someone is lying or trying to remember. Direct, intense eye contact not only shows love but can trigger a romantic response in the other person. Intense eye contact can also be threatening and intimidating. In some cultures, direct eye contact can be disrespectful while in others it is expected.

Life As I Know It

Hello, bloggers!

Welcome to another beautiful day in the great state of Alabama. I’m thrilled to have you drop by!

Today, I am shining a light on another wonderful author and member of RRBC, Bonnie Ferrante! Join me as we get to know the inspiring person behind the books. We also get to enjoy a lovely excerpt from her latest release, LEYA.


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Although the villagers rose with the sun to work the fields, attend to the animals, bake their bread, and begin their long list of chores, for me, Leya Truelong, this was a day like no other. Today, Wren River was touched by the fantastic.

As smoke from the brick ovens rose in thin columns over the thatched and wood shingle roofs, I left the village and headed down a path toward a clearing in the woods. Perhaps, this year, for the first time in my…

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

 Click here to buy Annalise’s Up and Down Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Insomnia is the Real Monster in the Bedroom. Recycled Sundays.

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The world’s population can be divided into two groups, the problem sleepers and the probably asleep. As a charter member of the former, I have always envied the latter group.

Part of my problem is conditioning from childhood and part, I suspect, is that I am an owl. People have trouble falling asleep for a variety of reasons. My major block is that everyone in the house must be asleep before I can begin to relax. There’s no point in getting ready for bed if anyone in the family still up. My owl hearing fine-tunes to their every movement. My owl vision sees every glimmer as a spotlight. My owl sense reacts to every movement. Come morning, I have the personality of a predator.

As my children enter the teen years, they stay up later and later. I look forward to setting a new pounds per inch record on eye bags. When I lie awake, the hours tick by. It is mesmerizing how loud and varied the sounds from an electric clock are at 2 AM. I take about an hour and half to fall asleep in my own bed, with the house quiet, the lights off, and everyone asleep. You can imagine how well I cope with strange beds. Add an hour for sleeping in a hotel, two for a tent, and three for someone else’s house.

My husband is developing the Dagwood style of napping. He will insist that he’s just, “resting”. No need to go to bed. Before I can muster a comeback, he’s snoring.

I should have suspected we were opposites when he told me about his teenage hiking tour of Greece and Italy. Unable to afford hotels, he slept on park benches, in farmers’ fields, and, this truly boggles the mind, on the tiny green islands between traffic lanes. Apparently the possibility of being mugged by a gang, dumped on by a cow, or turned into pavement pizza by a wild driver never disturbed his sleep. It would’ve disturbed mind. Everything does.

Between the time my head hits the pillow and I actually enter the delicious state of R. E. M., I solve the ecology problem, overpopulation, errant youth, the deficit, rampant crime, and my inability to diet. Unfortunately, sleep erases these brilliant ideas and by morning I have no notion of what I spent the hours deciding.

Perhaps children are quick sleepers because they leave the heavy decisions to grown-ups. I never envy a child, except when I see them being carried through a noisy mall, sound asleep.

To be fair, losing the ability to stay awake can cause problems too. In 1957 The Everly Brothers sang about the special problem of two chronic sleepers. Little Susie and her date dozed off in the movies. She realized her parents would not believe that the ushers didn’t notice the large lumps in the back row.

I chuckled when I see chronic sleepers waking up on a plane or a bus. They immediately check to see if anyone is staring. I smiled the grin of someone who has seen them at their most vulnerable (I saw you with your mouth slack, bobbing like an empty headed doll. And, you don’t know if anyone has robbed you while you snorted your way past four cities.) It is an image I comfort myself with when I am tossing and turning.

Some places trigger chronic sleepers better than pills. Church seems to be a stimulus (or lack of stimulus). It must be the warm, safe feeling. It can’t be the chairs. I sometimes suspect it’s the sounds.

Automobiles are worse. The white noise and the rocking motion would stop my squalling babies when nothing else worked. Sleep can still be a blessing when we are on a long, family trip. I’m awake, but at least the kids will doze after time.

Not like my sister, who was infamous for falling asleep instantaneously in anything that moved. She would fall asleep in buses, cars, trains, boats, and even taxis. When the buckle up sign went off on a plane, she had approximately 20 seconds to recline her seat before she faded out.

On her first date with her husband, she nearly fell asleep on the way to the theater. She has missed every drive in the country my family went on. I think that’s why she liked the Zipper and The Wild Mouse at the fair. It was the only time in her life she was still awake when a ride ended.

Instead of doctors spending fortunes treating sleep disturbances, they should just drive their patients around the block a few times. If that doesn’t work, they could sing a few hymns and launch into a sermon. Of course, in my house, everyone else better be asleep first.

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

 

Can I Bring a Giraffe on the Plane? By Lesley-Anne Caporelli. Edited by Amy E. Vaughn. Book Review

Click here to purchase Can I Bring a Giraffe on the Plane?

This 8 x 10 picture book is suitable for children aged one to beginning reader. It starts with Rajesh traveling by plane to visit his grandparents. His parents say he can bring one friend. “Which friend should Rajesh bring?”

The story proceeds through a list of animals proposed as possible traveling companions. “Can I bring a giraffe on the plane?” “No, Rajesh, you cannot bring a giraffe on the plane.” It continues with lion, dolphin, mouse, horse, and finally, bear. Rajesh is surprised when a new response comes, “Why yes, Rajesh, you can bring a bear on the plane!” The last page reads, “Bears are always allowed on planes!” The associated picture shows four children accompanied by their teddy bears.

This book is perfect for beginning readers as the pattern of question and answer is worded the same and repeated five times. The sixth time, the question is answered differently. My three-year-old granddaughter quickly mastered reading the text. Although the child is not actually reading, the behaviour of following the print from left to right and remembering what is on each page by referring to the illustration sets the foundation for actual reading later on. As well, the name of the animal is set in a different font. Observant children will quickly decipher the named animal in response to the picture. Word recognition will eventually follow.

The pictures are bright and simple, the kind one would find on a nursery room wall. The characters are expressive in their responses to what is happening. The lion seems a little odd as he appears to have hooves instead of paws.

There are humorous moments in the book as Rajesh imagines the reaction to specific animals. People are frightened of the lion. The plane would have to be flooded and the passengers would need to wear snorkels for the dolphin. The mouse would make the stewardess scream. The horse would take a lot of space but be well loved. Bees would follow the bear with a jar of honey.

Short and simple but engaging, this is sure to become a favorite for preschoolers who want to be able to read on their own.

smilesmilesmilesmilesmile

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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