Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten. Book Review.

Teresa Toten is the author of a remarkable book I have previously reviewed, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B. This novel is quite different in style and substance.

Toten certainly  knows how to use plot twist in creative ways. The book veered off into unpredictable situations that built the tension of  this psychological  thriller exponentially. The first third of the book was rather slow but the last third was riveting.

Toten reveals just enough about the two main characters, Olivia and Kate, to build our curiosity and suspense as the story progresses. These girls are in their senior year and aiming for Yale University. We know that something has happened to both these girls to damage them deeply in different ways. We know that they are both keeping secrets. We know that they are both afraid. We know that something isn’t quiet right with the handsome Mr. Mark Redkin who takes an interest in them.

The author cleverly reveals snippets of Kate’s life that makes us question whether she is the hero or the villain in this drama. She uses people. Does she care for them at all? The answer is as complex as the plot itself.

My major criticism of this book would be that the dialogue clunks in places and seems artificial and flat at times. As well, there are moments when the point of view is muddied. Although this is a suspense novel, character plays a major role and believable dialogue is essential. The two brilliant girls did made some very stupid choices.

Although it doesn’t have the genius of 13B, I think this would make a great suspense movie with the right script writer and director. All in all, it was a very enjoyable read.

 

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How to Help a Child Remember an Address

 

The best tool I’ve ever used for helping a child memorise is rhyme and rhythm. My little granddaughter had difficulty learning her address so I made a response rhyme. You’ll have to go to the video to hear the tune.

Adult: What’s the number on your door?

Child: The number is blank blank four.

Adult: What’s the street where you’re alive?

Child: The street is called blank blank Drive.

Use a familiar tune or one you make up. If you can’t make a rhyme, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help you out.

Midnight Fairy Craft & Party Book by Tracy Marsh. Book Review.

This book has more ideas than you will ever possibly use for a party. There are chapters on making dolls, wands, books, wish boxes, and even fairy wings. Marsh gives details on preparing for the party, sending out invitations, food, cake, tablecloths and napkins, and even place cards. There is a whole section on games and activities most quite physically active.

Some of the creations require a great deal of effort and some are fairly simple. Many of them are quite beautiful and worthy of becoming a permanent keepsake.

Of course you can simplify everything and change things to suit your energy level, income, and needs. I used it as inspiration for a fairy night with my five-year-old granddaughter who was sleeping over. Here are some of the decorations we did using materials we already had and a few things from the dollar store.

Any physical activities outside were out of the question since we were experiencing a heat wave and it was excruciating hot at 9 pm. Instead we played table and word games with fairy themes such as “A fairy took from my house.”  We did two rounds of took and two of left.

Our fairy door in the garden was too damp so we put one on the deck.

To see our decorations, games etc. check out this short video.

How to Draw and Paint Fairyland: a Step-by-step Guide for Creating a World of Fairies by Linda Ravenscroft. Book Review.

This book is chock full of ideas for the beginner painter and the more advanced. It begins with details on different medium and techniques you might use to create your fairyland. It teaches you how to transfer a picture using a grid and how colors work together. It helps you decide what season and what weather your picture will have. There is a short but very helpful section on using color to create mood.

The book contains ideas on keeping a sketchbook, finding inspiration, composition, viewpoint and more. For those who are beginning artists, there are actual pictures that can be copied directly. You can duplicate an entire mural or take ideas from different pages. There are classical creatures from Shakespeare as well as moon, water, tree, and grove fairies.

There is excellent information on painting foliage and flowers. Like me, you may choose to take the fairies and give them your own twist. I created a background using some flowers presented in the book and my own ideas. Here is what I came up with.

BUY link http://a.co/i5q4KtX

The Sherrif’s Catch by James Valla-Bardon. The Sassana Stone Pentalogy. Book Review.

This is a robust and gruesome tale of a Spanish soldier, Abel de Santiago, a gifted sharpshooter, seeking revenge for the murder of his wife. Anything and everything horrible that can happen to this man, does. If you are uncomfortable with abasement, torture, and bloody fights, you might have to take this book one small piece at a time as I did. The historical authenticity is both unnerving and fascinating . It definitely makes this reader grateful to be living in this time and this country.
The hero is resilient, determined, and completely believable as he and his brother-in-law search for the four men, former colleagues, who are responsible for the slaughter of his wife and her family. This is a truly epic vengeance novel.
I thought I knew quite a bit about England in the 1500s but seeing it through the eyes of soldiers gives a whole new perspective. If you can handle the brutality, this is definitely a page turner.
I do think the title and cover could have been more relevant to this particular novel but I realize this is the beginning of the series. I’m curious to know where the story could possibly go from here as the hero has gone through more than any human should ever have to bear.
The writing flows well. The novel has enough detail to keep the reader aware of the historical context without becoming boring. Fight scenes are detailed and suspenseful. The story is told through the eyes of the Spanish soldier having just enough linguistic flavor to make it feel authentic without becoming cumbersome.
If you like swashbuckling historical adventures, this is a series you will want to look into.

Cat Rhymes for Kids

Some well-known and unfamiliar rhymes about cats, most with different interpretations.

Cat masks for followup fun. Add elastic. Print on heavy paper about 7 inches wide for a child.

Finger puppet mouse. Glue edges together for front and back. Print 1.5 inches wide.

Read one of my favorite cat books, Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That,  reviewed here.

https://bferrante.wordpress.com/2017/09/30/nat-the-cat-can-sleep-like-by-victoria-allenby-and-tara-anderson/

Rhymes for a Rainy Day

Follow up ideas:

Make a rain stick.

Make a rainy painting by dropping blobs of shades of blue paint and tilting the paper to make the paint run in streaks.

Make a lightning picture. Use black paper. Dip a string in white paint. Drop it onto the paper. Carefully peel it off.

Draw a giant  rainbow outside with sidewalk chalk. Watch the rain wash it away.

Make bowls of mud (chocolate pudding). Add sprinkles for rocks and a gummy worm.

Umbrella Exercise. Fold a colored paper plate (flimsy one) or paper circle into 8 sections.  Put 1 raindrop on the first section, 2 on the next, until there are eight. Make a second umbrella. In each section write a movement: hop, clap, stamp a foot, touch your toes, kick, tip-toe, giant steps, march. Put the umbrellas on the floor. Toss two quarters, or small bean bags, or rolled up socks, one to each umbrella. Do the action such as hop 3 times.

Make a mobile of raindrops made from blue cellophane. Hang in against a window.

Read a rainy story like https://wp.me/p1OfUU-n0  Outstanding in the Rain, A Whole Story with Holes, by Frank Viva.

Go for a walk in the rain. Snap pictures. Make your own rainy day book.

Three Random Questions Interview with Author-Firefighter Danual Berkley

Danual Berkley is a full-time fire fighter, husband, father of two little boys, Army vet, and a guy with a dream. His dream is to one day become a well-known children’s author providing positive representation for black men, while tackling the lack of diversity in children’s literature for people of color.

 Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Danual. I’m so glad you agreed to an interview. You’ve gone from being in the army to being a fire fighter, both requiring huge acts of courage and selflessness. Why do you choose these kinds of careers?

Danual Berkley: Hello Bonnie. Thank you so much for having me! I chose these two careers for two separate reasons actually. While in high school, I always kept pretty good grades. I had no idea how to use those grades to get scholarships to pay for college, nor was I really interested in doing another 4 years of school after being in school my entire life. I knew that going to the military would put money in my pocket, and later on they would pay for me to attend college as well. I wanted to go infantry at first, but my older brother David talked me out of it because he was worried about my safety.  Instead, I decided to drive trucks. The funny thing is, once I found out that I was deploying to Iraq, the military changed my job and I became a gunner in the 66th Transportation Gun Truck Company. My job was to provide security for convoys that we escorted throughout Iraq.  This turned out to be a job that was just as much, if not more, dangerous than being an infantryman.

It was also my brother that led me to the fire department. I wanted to be a S.W.A.T officer on a police department. I was seeking a job with action. My brother called me up one day and told me the fire department was hiring, and that they paid very well. By this time, I was in my 3rd year of college, and had my first son on the way.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to provide for my son, if I was lucky enough to get the job. After a year of testing and waiting, I was offered the job. I went to the fire academy and learned that firefighting was actually the best job there was and offered tons of action. I’ve been hooked and loving it ever since! I’ve been on six and a half years now.

Ferrante: You have recently entered into the field of writing children’s picture books. What  made you choose such a divergent enterprise?

Berkley: I didn’t discover I had a talent in writing until I was in the 11th grade. My English teacher made it mandatory that the class entered the Young Author’s Competition. The choice she gave us was to write either a poem or a short story. I wasn’t really trying to do a lot of work, so I wrote a short poem that it took me all the way to the State Competition where I took 3rd place overall in poetry. After that, I wouldn’t write again for years until I found myself fighting in the Iraq War. In order to escape my reality, I started writing again and making up different kinds of characters in faraway places. As I became more serious about my writing and became published, I met Amariah. Amariah was my first encounter with someone who was actually very successful creating children’s stories. She was the one that introduced me to writing picture books, because up until then, all I had been writing were books set to be a collection of poetry. With that said, I encourage all people to continue trying new things because you never know how much you’ll love something or how good you are at something, until you try it!

Ferrante: Your book, Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure, features an African-American family. The little boy is the hero who saves the family from the sea monster and turns the sinking ship into a submarine. Picture books should always make children feel empowered. Looking at the dedication in the front of your book to your sons, “Don’t ever let someone’s misunderstanding change who you are.” I can see that that is deeply important to you. Do you feel there are enough books out there for your children to feel culturally included and valued?

BUY LINK

 Berkley: Based on my personal experience (as well as research), no. There are not enough books out that represent children of color. Whether or not that child feels culturally included or valued, varies with each individual child. I do know as a kid growing up, I didn’t really have the opportunity to read or see books with African-American families, but as an adult, when I see a book with African American families I get excited to see characters in the stories both my family and I can relate to. It feels good seeing a reflection of yourself in a story.

Ferrante: Previously you mentioned negative stereotypes about black men, one being that they don’t raise their children. In a cosmic moment of serendipity, I heard a comedian, Mark James Heath, speaking on the expressions of surprise when Caucasian people see him engaged with his children. In this regard, it seems as though literature has not caught up with television. I see a number of shows with involved black fathers but picture books seem rather rare. This is unfortunate since they are often the earliest stories of families children experience.  I have two questions. How does your book address this topic? How can Caucasian writers help in this area?

Berkley: To answer your first question, In Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure I address the topic indirectly. I don’t come out and say straight forward that I’m a black man raising my kids. I simply show myself being an involved father throughout the story. I have other books I’ve written that have yet to be published, that shows the love and compassion I have for my sons a lot more. The actions in the story speak louder than any words could express.

In regards to your second question, Caucasian writers who do have large followings could help by also writing books that show positive black male fathers.

Ferrante: What other attitudes toward black men do you hope to influence in your writing?

Berkley: Other negative stereotypes say black men don’t settle down with one woman and get married, as well as being violent individuals. All of my stories are geared to show how untruthful these stereotypes are. Black men do settle down and get married, and black men are not people you have to fear. We are here to love and enjoy life just as any other person would want to.

Ferrante: Do you intend to write more books featuring Davy and his family or are you considering other characters?

Berkley: I have several other unpublished books where all of the characters in Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure play lead characters. In the back of Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure, you can find the backstories of all of the characters. I did this because each character will be seen again in other stories, and it ties them all together. Readers will be able to develop relationships with each character and experience stories from that character’s point of view.

Ferrante: Have you ever considered writing a firefighter picture book featuring a black man or a black woman for that matter? By the way, I live in northern Canada where most black immigrants take a look at the winter weather and head south so I’ve never seen firefighter of African descent. Is it common in your firehouse?

Berkley: I do have a firefighting story already written with Davy as the main character. As of now, there are other stories we plan to release before that one is to be published. The next book will most likely star my younger son as the main character.

In regards to how many black firefighters there are on a department, it varies by population. I live in a predominantly white area, so most firefighters in our department are white. I’m sure there are other places where the majority of firefighters are people of color.

Ferrante: Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you would like to share with my readers?

Berkley: Please check out my website and social media pages to learn more about my work at the following links:

https://www.instagram.com/poetryfixdb/

https://www.facebook.com/poemsbydanual/

https://www.danualberkley.com/

Ferrante: Now for the unusual part. My interviews always feature three random questions so here we go.

1. If you could play a sport at Olympic level, which one would you choose?

Berkley: It would definitely have to be snowboarding! Although I have never been snowboarding in my life, it just looks really fun to do, and it allows you to be as creative as you want. I love sledding here during the winter, so I can only imagine how awesome it would be to snowboard down the side of a mountain.

Ferrante: 2. You really do love action.

 If you could give a gift to every new parent, what would you give them?

Berkley: It would have to be a dishwasher. It’s impossible to keep up with the amount of bottles, plates, baby accessories, and breast feeding equipment on top of the dishes you use yourself. The only way you can survive is by having a dishwasher, so in words of Oprah, “You get a dishwasher, you get a dishwasher, everyone gets a dishwasher!”

Ferrante: 3.  LOL. That brings back memories.

 If you could be an animal for a day, what would you be?

Berkley: If I got to be an animal for one day it would have to be a rodent! I watch a lot of Animal Planet, and being a rodent seems really adventurous and exciting. I’m sure I’d probably regret that decision instantly if I ever really had the opportunity to be a mouse. But in all of the movies I’ve seen, being a mouse seems like a good time!

Ferrante: I did NOT expect that answer. 🙂

 Thank you for participating in my interview and answering both my serious and silly questions. Best of luck with your wonderful book Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure and all your future enterprises.

Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton. Book Review.

This  young adult book is about a middle grade student who has experienced  sudden onset severe schizophrenia. He has been moved to a new school for fresh start. His parents demand that the staff keep his medical condition secret. Adam falls in love with an intelligent and strong young lady named Maya. He is terrified that when she finds out about his illness, she will drop him.
Adam is on a trial drug because the standard medications do not work to control his  hallucinations which can be so severe that he has acted on them in the past including severe self injury. To complicate matters, his father has abandon him and his stepfather is nervous around him. Add to the fact that his mother becomes pregnant and we see that there are no simple solutions to a complicated issue.
The story was deeply introspective and this made it a little difficult to connect with the other characters who seemed flat in comparison.
This book is sure to elicit discussion and disagreement but it is also extremely informative as far as getting inside the head of a young man trying to cope with a extremely challenging condition. Adam is a likable and decent young man who deserves a better break than what life has given him. No matter how you feel about his family’s decisions with regard to Adam’s care and inclusion, you are bound to empathize and feel great compassion for this individual.

Lost in London Duplo Adventure

My granddaughter and I made a mini travel adventure with Duplo about Egypt. Of course she wanted a mummy in it. I decided to make it into a mini video and a series was born.

I created a  Lego Dyplo adventure in London, England next. The two biggest problems were having enough Duplo for the large structures and convincing my granddaughter I had to take Buckingham Palace apart in order to build the next set. She wanted it to cover the dining room table forever. I added songs to this one and used PhotoShop to improve the pictures.

Lost in London: Using legos (mostly duplo) Cassie visits several historic sites in London, England but can’t enjoy herself until she finds Polly. What has happened to her best friend? This video is a great jumping off point for kids to write an adventure about Polly, whose appearance might surprise you. Sprinkled with variations of Mother Goose.

Check it out.