The Gingerbread Man (with a happy ending)

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

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

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A B C I Like Me! by Nancy Carlson. Book Review.

The alphabet is not the focus of this book. It is basically about seeing ourselves in a positive light. An anthropomorphic pig accompanied by a mouse and a frog (oddly the only one not wearing clothes) goes through the alphabet reciting something wonderful about herself. For example, “I am Awesome, Brave, and Cheerful. I have big Dreams.”

The pictures are brightly colored and fill most of the page with a simple phrase or sentence below. Gigantic smiles are plastered on everyone’s face.

Most of the things the pig mentions are attainable by preschoolers. They would enjoy connecting with the pig’s abilities. It might be fun to make a follow-up book of the child’s interests, talents, and quality. Inevitably, some would be the same but, with an adult’s help, some should be unique to the child. For example, B could be for building wonderful block towers, D could be for love to dance, and L could be for listen well to a story.

The book is just long enough for a toddler’s attention span. This would be a great book for a child who tends to self criticize, worry, or compare himself unfavorably to peers or friends.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Exploring Our Darkness – Author Audrey N. Lewis Three Random Questions Interview

Audrey N. Lewis has retired after 25 years of running an International not-for-profit. Now she is able to focus on her writing and has completed two very different books.

audrey-lewis

Bonnie Ferrante: Hello and welcome Audrey. Reading through your bio I was struck with how many similar interests we have. We both enjoy furniture restoration, scrabble, gardens and nature. I don’t know if I would ever have the courage to keep bees though.

Audrey N. Lewis: Thank you for having me Bonnie. I would love to play scrabble sometime. It’s interesting that you mention needing courage when it comes to beekeeping. Really it isn’t about courage as much as it’s about the ability to keep calm. It has been a hobby that our whole family was able to be involved in. I actually discovered I am allergic to honey bees and my husband had to take over the hive care and I was responsible for extracting and preparing the honey. It’s an awesome experience and as a nature lover feels good to increase the bee population.

Ferrante: One of the characters in your short story collection, Everybody has a story… These are ours…, is also a highly creative person. Megan is an artist. But the rest, seem very different from you. When you write, do you draw on your own experiences or like to explore new ways of looking at things?    

Lewis: I think that when I write it is difficult not to draw from either something I have experienced on a physical level or an emotion that an event may evoke.

When I write I think I have a tendency to throw myself into the story and that although a particular story line might not be real or something I have personally experienced I tend to  immerse myself into a character or characters often letting it take over for a bit, until I can finish it and let it go.

Buy link for Everybody has a story…. These are ours…..

Ferrante: At one point in Megan’s story, she draws detailed, amazing pictures on frosted store front windows that melt away with the sunrise. This is a Buddhist activity, much like water sketches, chalk drawings, or sand mandalas. It was quite symbolic of her life. If you had to choose an artistic activity to represent your life, what do you think would be most suitable?

Lewis: Since we share many hobbies, I think you might understand my dilemma in saying I am not sure I can answer this question. I feel that I have come a long way from the little girl I was when I wrote my first poem or painted my first painting. More so now as the woman I am and continue to be, there is not one activity I feel that would represent my life, but rather an ongoing living canvas that would incorporate all of the arts and senses as well as emotions, including Mother Earth and all that she bears.

Ferrante: Although Megan’s future was taken from her, most of her life really, she never lost her true self. At one point she resorted to cutting herself and using her blood in an attempt to paint. Do you feel the creative impulse is essential to fill?

Lewis: I do believe that it is essential. I believe that as a creative person it would be so  difficult to be chastised, or forbidden to use my creativity in some way. In fact if I was no longer able to be creative at will in some way, I think I would just be empty and fade away.

Ferrante: Absolutely. It would be hard to get up in the morning.

The theme of parent and daughter seems predominant in your short story collection. Were they written as a group with that in mind?

Lewis: I am a mother of a son and daughter and a daughter who grew up with 3 sisters. I have witnessed myriad relationships throughout my years and with bearing witness to so many life events and experiences I felt I could draw most realistically from those. When I wrote them, they were written at different times and I did not really think about how they might go together.

Ferrante: The first story in your collection, “The Closet” had a sci-fi touch that was about a universal problem. The child in this story has special needs that her parents and teachers seem unable to fill. Because of her innate personality, she has great difficulty with self-control and interpersonal relationships. Consequently, she is excluded socially and even bullied. This raises the question of nature versus nurture. Are you coming down on the side of nature?

Lewis: This was a very emotional story for me. I think all too often we hear about children who need help but either aren’t recognized as having a problem or who slip through the system in one way or another. I believe that often times it is due to nature that problems present themselves and when this happens it is difficult not to over compensate with nurturing. But even with all the nurturing one can give without defining the nature of the problem or in the case of Lexi in The Closet, addressing and acknowledging it. I believe that you cannot nurture someone so disturbed without acknowledging that nature may indeed continue to take its course.

Ferrante: The mood of this story collection is quite sombre, even dark. Were they all written at a specific time in your life? Did you set out to explore the theme of helplessness or despair?

Lewis: It’s interesting that you ask me this question, because I have discussed this with close friends. Most of the stories were written at a different time and not necessarily shadowing where I was emotionally. I do not think of myself as a dark person, so I was surprised at how dark they turned out to be. I think that it is not so much helplessness or despair as much as my perception of the various life events and the reality of them. There are two sides to everything and I think that when I wrote them I was attempting to show the side of life’s stages that one doesn’t always look at. Thinking about these stories sort of makes me sad, because I feel that they do indeed reflect those emotions.

Ferrante: Your other book, Dreamseeker, Wish Keeper is totally different. It is a children’s book illustrated with crayon drawings. Why did you decide to switch from adult short story writing to a children’s picture book?

Lewis: Actually, Dreamseeker, Wish Keeper was written and illustrated in 1991 for my daughters 6th birthday. I have written many stories of various genre since then which includes the collection of short stories, Everybody has a story….These are ours. I don’t actually decide what I will write but rather let where I am and what I am feeling dictate my writing at a specific time.

 Click here to buy Dreamseeker Wish Keeper

Ferrante: The picture book almost seems as though it is written for adults instead of children, or at least teenagers. I felt the theme was to dream big, but worthy, dreams, be curious, work to fulfill your wishes, don’t give up, and share your gifts. Who do you feel you are speaking to in this book? Why did you choose this message?

Lewis: Like I said, Bonnie, I wrote Dreamseeker, Wish Keeper for my daughters 6th birthday. This was my gift to her, so when I wrote it I was speaking to her. I wrote it understanding the old soul in her and the gifts she shared with all of us. As the younger sibling of a physically disabled brother sometimes she didn’t always understand the fairness of life and yet her heart screamed the dreams I wrote about. I guess it only seemed fitting to give her messages that she might carry with her through life and remember how incredible human nature can be when we look at each other and at life itself in a positive way.

 Ferrante: What is your next project going to be?

Lewis: Phew. I am working on several projects right now. I am working on a novel that has been evolving for the past 40 years, about how differently we view expereinces at different times of our lives, how they may look differently depending on where one might be at the time. It is about going back, forgiving and letting go.

I am working on a sci-fi book with several writers. It is about a parallel dimension of powerful women and what their lives are like as they create their world. It should be interesting with different voices coming together.

I am also working on what was originally going to be a short story which is becoming a novella. It was inspired after the tragedy in Orlando and I am hoping will open up some deep discussions and perhaps change some reader’s views on the human race.

three random questions

Ferrante: What special talents would you like to possess?

Lewis:  Without sounding too altruistic, I would like to be able to alleviate the world of diseases, hunger and the carbon footprints and pollution that are causing climate change.

 Ferrante: As a child, what was your favourite game?

Lewis: I think this is another hard question, Bonnie. It depends on how old I was. I think what I remember that made me happiest was playing with my imaginary friend, Jeffery.

 Ferrante: What word do you most dislike? What do you most like?

Lewis: I really dislike the word “hate” it is such an unfriendly word and always seems to instill such sad feelings. I don’t think there is ever anything good that comes from that word.

The word I like most depends on the day. But if I think about it as a word that makes me happy when I think about what it means than it would be two words, Love and Peace. These are the words I really wish we could all live our lives believing and sharing.

Bonnie, thank you again for having me and I hope we can play a game of scrabble sometime soon.

 Ferrante: Thank you for participating. It’s always great to make a connection with someone of similar interests. Best of luck with your many endeavours.

The author’s short story collection was reviewed March 31, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Three Random Questions are from a Bit of Banter, the Game That Gets You Talking

Giving Away 3 Paperback copies of Action Alphabet

Opens for entries on May 15, 2017

 Availability: 3 copies available

Giveaway dates: May 15 – May 23, 2017

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

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

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

Come On, Let’s Play.

 

Whenever it is too cold or wet to go outside, children inevitably spend more time in front of screens. They don’t have to be passive watchers. Turn on my new video, Come On, Let’s Play and encourage them to participate. Make sure they have room to MOVE. Using their imagination and their bodies, they will stretch, hop, thump, swing, twirl, search, slide, point, read, stir, roll a ball, and splash. They will also enjoy rapping along.

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

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie. Book Review.

Buy link Smoke

This story focuses on two women who were once best friends, Elizabeth and Mindy. Elizabeth has been trying for years to get pregnant and when Mindy complains about her unwanted pregnancy, angry words are exchanged. The story begins when Elizabeth’s marriage is on the brink of collapse.

The plot focuses around an out-of-control fire that is threatening the town and very close to Elizabeth’s dream home. Elizabeth is an arson investigator and disagrees with her supervisor’s opinion on the cause of the fire. Was it teenagers or was it the homeowner? One teenager, Mindy’s son, refuses to say anything in his own defence when the son of the town diva accuses him of deliberately starting the fire.

The story is filled with all the drama of competitive shallow women. Neither Elizabeth nor Mindy belong in the social circle of money and exclusivity. The loss of their friendship for the last year has left them both vulnerable and lonely.

Elizabeth needs to cope with the dissolution of her marriage, her growing loneliness, conflict with her superior over the fire investigation, meddling in-laws, and the impending destruction of her home and possibly the entire town.

I found the sections on fire containment fascinating. One scene where a telephone was left behind to record the surging fire was particularly vivid and unsettling. I would have liked a bit more nitty-gritty about the experience for the firefighters.

This is the kind of novel that a book club would enjoy reading and discussing. McKenzie’s writing style is easy to follow and engaging. Her characters are relatable and the situations are believable. I appreciated the way she echoed the town’s drama with the expanding fire. The smoke pervaded the lives of the townspeople as the controversy grew. It provided a powerful echo of the interpersonal conflicts.

        

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A B C Letters in the Library by Bonnie Farmer. Illustrated by Chum McLeod. Book Review.

This book goes through the letters of the alphabet relating them to things in the library such as dictionaries , encyclopedias, volunteers, and story time. H is the librarian going sh. T is the teacher going tsk at loud teens who shrug in response.

There is no story and the tone is generally serious. I was hoping for a bit of humor. We found this book rather dull and a bit stereotyped. I can see a librarian using it to introduce children to the library but there must be other, more fun books out there to choose from.

 The pictures are quite nice with skinny body people who have large heads with tiny eyes. They are imposed on a white background. It is unfortunate that the artist did not introduce a story line, something more compelling, or at least something humorous. This is an okay alphabet book but rather lackluster.

Click on the cover to buy the book.

Learning Resources Goodie Games ABC CookiesLearning Resources Snap-n-Learn Alphabet Alligators

 

The Learning Journey Match It! Memory, Alphabet

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Mixing Primary Colors

Mixing Colors

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

What If You Overheard a Murderer? – Author Philip Cox Three Random Questions Interview

Today we will meet an author who writes for adults. Do you remember the cold February weather? Philip Cox’s thriller/mysteries will make you shiver just as much as that northern wind.

signing-pic-v2

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Phillip. You began your writing career as a stay-at-home father. How did you find the time and the energy to write After the Rain, Dark Eyes of London, Something to Die For, Don’t Go Out Into the Dark, and Wrong Time to Die all within four years?

Philip Cox: Actually, it’s six years now, and She’s Not Coming Home and Should Have Looked Away are somewhere in there too. Writing a book is something I’d always wanted to do. When our eldest daughter was born, I took a career break from my job in banking and started After the Rain, which finally came out in 2011. Time management and self-discipline are very important: there are always potential distractions. As far as the energy is concerned, that’s just lots of black coffee and chocolate cookies!

     

Click on the book covers for more information.

Ferrante: Several of your books take place in the United States of America. Why have you chosen to write in that setting instead of England?

Cox: For a book to enjoy any success it has to sell in necessary numbers in both the United States and the UK. US readers are more likely to be interested in a story set in their own country. Places like London or Paris might be an exception. As far as UK readers are concerned, with a story set in somewhere like New York or Los Angeles, there’s that familiarity because of the movies and TV, and at the same time the exoticism and foreignness. I tend to pick New York and LA as they are places I know very well. In Wrong Time to Die the main character visits several restaurants and bars: they’re all real places. I’ve been to them.

 Click on the book cover for more information.

Ferrante: Why do you write in the thriller genre? Are you inspired by anything in the news or real life?

Cox: The authors I enjoy reading most range from Lee Child and James Patterson right through to Agatha Christie and Denis Wheatley. I took inspiration for After the Rain from a newspaper article I read about a guy from South London who was on vacation somewhere and went missing. Don’t Go Out in the Dark was something on Facebook. I was sitting in one of the stalls in a restroom and overheard a conversation. I got to thinking how scary it would be to be to hear a murder, even scarier if you had one of your children with you! So I took the plot of Should Have Looked Away from there.

               

Click on the book covers for more information.

Ferrante: Your interests include the history of cinema and model railroading. Is your basement filled with models? Have you ever written about either of these?

Cox: Ha! Not the basement – some years back I had the garage converted into a den! No, I’ve not thought about including model railroading, but I’m also interested in full sized ones. The Underground (subway) in London is the oldest in the world and has lots of history. A lot of the action in Dark Eyes of London takes place there, and there is a suggestion at the start of the book that readers download a system map so they can follow the events.

Ferrante: I’m assuming that since you write thrillers, you’re a plotter.

 Cox: Generally, the outline isn’t too precise when I start. I have an idea what the story’s going to be about and how it will end (generally) but I’ll flesh details out as I go along. Sometimes the story will develop in a different way to how I first envisioned it. I’ll always start at the beginning, and have never written the climax first; however, if I’m suffering from block, I might write a future chapter or two, then tailor the action to reach that stage. Better than stalling.

Ferrante: With two children to care for, a quiet and private place to work must be a challenge. Do you have a routine that you follow every day?

Cox: I tend to write when the children are at school or when they’ve gone to sleep. If that’s not possible, I’ll take myself off to the local library, but there are distractions there as well. I tend to pencil out a couple of chapters in rough – just an outline – one day, then hit the keyboard the next, alternating like that. With everything else going on, I’d find it too tiring to be typing day in, day out. I do target myself, not numbers of pages, but numbers of words. When I start a book, I’m aiming for around 65000 words. When I know when I need to finish the first draft, I can then calculate how many words I need to achieve each week. I also try to keep it Monday to Fridays: that way, I have time weekends to make up any shortfall.

Ferrante: What do you find the most challenging about writing?

Cox: Trying to come up with something original. Not easy. For example, the one I’m working on now is the third in a series featuring an LAPD detective. I came across a piece a few weeks back about an old Navajo superstition which says if someone’s on a journey and a coyote crosses their path, they have to abandon the journey, as it means they will meet with a fatal accident. The mystic side of that appealed to me and I planned on working that into the plot. I even thought up a title: The Last Coyote. As I always do, I checked on Amazon if there was already a book with that title and there was – a Harry Bosch novel! So it was back to the drawing board on that one. I’ve found it a good idea to have a notepad and pen with me 24/7 because little ideas will always flash through my mind at the most unexpected times. Another challenge can be boredom: if it’s hard going, and nothing’s coming through, it’s easy to get distracted to just do something else, so yes, you do need the discipline.

Ferrante: What do you find the most rewarding?

Cox: Getting the royalties! That’s not as glib as it sounds: whilst everybody likes to see those credits on their bank statements, to receive a payment for something I’ve personally created is an amazing feeling. Of course it’s not 100% me: others proof-read, and help with research, but in the main, it’s my achievement. When I worked in banking, that was all down to the guys who founded the bank however many years ago, and I was working something that others had set up and created.  Here, the books are my creation. Hope that doesn’t sound too lofty. Also rewarding is when I either first see the eBook on the Amazon sales pages or when I unwrap my copy of the paperback version. I was present at the births of both my children, and the feeling of seeing a new book is second only to how I felt then. Not a close second, by the way; some way behind, but second nonetheless.

Ferrante: What advice would you have for beginning writers starting their first novel?

Cox: When it’s finished, get somebody else to proof-read: you will miss loads, and lose your credibility.

Ferrante: Is there something you would like to share with your readers that I haven’t asked?

Cox: My favourite movie genre is horror, the black and white Universal pictures from the 30s and 40s, and the colour pictures from Hammer Films years later. I met and had a conversation with Christopher Lee once, an unforgettable experience.  I have a couple of CDs of soundtracks of the Hammer horror pictures, and once I got my wife to play excerpts, shuffled, to see if I could guess the movie. I got 100%! How sad is that!

three random questions

Ferrante: If you could create a memorial to yourself in a city park, what would that memorial be?

Cox: I think a life-sized statue of me sitting reading a book. Hopefully that will encourage more kids to get off their computer games and read a book. E-books allowed, of course.

Ferrante: If you could go back in time and ask any famous person in history one question, whom would you question and what would you ask? Assume that you would be given a completely honest answer.

Cox: Jesus Christ. I’d like to ask him: all the stuff I’ve heard, all the things I’ve read – is it actually true?

Ferrante: If, with your safety guaranteed, you could experience something considered very dangerous, what would you want to experience most of all?

Cox: To go into space, and see the world as it really is, as an actual planet, with the moon over there, the sun over there, and the stars way out there in the distance. That might link in with question 2.

Website:   www.philipcox.moonfruit.com

Twitter:  @philipcoxbooks

Instagram: philipcox_books

Facebook:  /Philip Cox

Don’t Go Out in the Dark book review.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

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