Good Morning, Snowplow! by Deborah Bruss. Illustraated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson. Book Review.

 

Buy link http://a.co/d/0IgU5rc

Good Morning Snowplow! is a gently engaging and reassuring picture book about a snow plow operator clearing the streets at night while everyone else sleeps. It has a poetic rhythm with rhyming couplets and smooth cadence.

It begins with a snowplow worker leaving his home. He carries a small lunch box and is accompanied by a doleful looking brown dog. The worker carefully checks his machinery before moving the vehicle and then step by step begins his methodical, important  routine.

The lines are beautifully poetic as the plow breakthrough obstacles.

“Waves of white curl off the blade.

 In its wake, a trail is  laid.”

As someone who has spent a great deal of time driving after dark through snow, I can connect easily with the text, but anyone who has never experienced a northern winter would feel as though they were sitting in the passenger seat.

I especially like that this book draws attention to an overlooked but essential job. Sometimes the snowplow worker is vilified instead of honored for his/her tremendously important work. Children should be taught to appreciate everyone who contributes to the safety and well-being of others.

The illustrations are an ideal match to the text. You can almost reach out and catch a snowflake. The muted colors and a dominant blue portray a silent winter evening perfectly.

I like that when the snowplow worker exited the truck to see what was happening, he kept his dog on a leash. Small details like that are important in children’s books.

One thing that struck me as odd was the necessary use of commas  in parts.

“Goodnight, homes, and goodnight, cars.”

The words and the pictures worked together to slow the pace and give the other world sensation of a night job. Extra commas just seemed awkward.

 All in all, this is a wonderful book to add to a child’s library. A different take on that fierce and fascinating season called winter.

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Little Miss History Travels to the North Pole by Barbara Mojica. Book Review.

This is another picture book in the series by Barbara Ann Mojica where a character named Little Miss History journeys to interesting places in the United States and around the world. She doesn’t just focus on history but also explores  the environment, culture, and more. In this book she shares the factual and the mythic facets of the North Pole.

Children will be fascinated by some of the facts in this text. For example, unlike Antarctica the North Pole has no land mass. It also has no time  Zone. There are a surprising number of living creatures in this frigid place. Kids who like to learn unusual information will enjoy this book.

No one owns the North Pole. Mojica examines the history and politics in a simple and informative way.

Mojica writes: “Sunrise and sunset come once a year. The North Pole receives six months of daylight and six months of darkness.” You will have to explain that this is not the same in the entire Arctic Circle. There, people experience months of Twilight where it is halfway between night and day. There is even some disagreement between scientists as to whether the North Pole has full darkness for 6 months and full light for 6 months.

 Of course, since this is a picture book for small children, the inevitable question of Santa Claus will come up. Mojica talks about the various Saint Nicks through history and in different cultures without damaging a child’s belief.

The book ends with the one-page glossary of words such as indigenous and mammals.

Another fun and informative book that would make a great gift.

BUY LINK http://a.co/d/gWxCyP1

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Check out my video with your child.

A Christmas wonderland made from Legos tells short visual stories while the music for We Wish You a Merry Christmas plays. Words appear on the screen. Then the music takes a more lively twist while the history of the song is revealed. Lego enthusiasts will be inspired to make their own winter town.

 

Notice that the carollers have the actual words to the song on the booklets.

Crazy Moon by Lucia Greene. Illustrated by Shannon Sands. Book Review.

This is the second book I have reviewed by Lucia Greene. Her five star review for A Tunnel in the Pines is available here. https://bferrante.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/a-tunnel-in-the-pines-by-lucia-greene-book-review/

This book is written in the same easy-to-engage style. However, it is less intense and suspenseful than A Tunnel.

Madison goes to summer camp for the first time. Her cabin has a mixture of girls, nice, shy, bully, and bystander. I expected Madison to be an advocate for respect among the girls but she is preoccupied with her own experiences. When Nancy, the ostracized girl runs away, I expected a connection to the title of the book “crazy moon.” This refers to aggressive behavior of animals in breeding mode. There are tales, in my northern community, of hikers and campers attacked relentlessly by moose in heat. But Nancy spent the night safe and sound in a tiny pine hideaway.

I thought the counselor would intervene and have the girls discuss and work on the group dynamics at several points in the book, but there was no real resolution. Madison’s take away from all this was to advise Nancy not to take things so seriously.

This could have been a book on personal and social growth wherein the reader gained perspective and empathy for the bullied girl and some strategies for dealing with put downs and other anti-social remarks. This could have been, like A Tunnel in the Pines, a nail-biting emotional roller-coaster ride for the reader. It was an enjoyable read but not of  the truly high-caliber of Greene’s first book. It will appeal to girls who love riding as Madison falls for Mouse, one of the camp horses. That, too, could have been a theme to expand upon. Why is this horse so afraid? What happens to them when they no longer can be ridden.

While I love Greene’s writing style, I think this particular book had some unfulfilled potential.

 

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.

 

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

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.