They’re Recycling Aliens, Sequel to Ants in Space by G J Griffiths. Book Review.

The first thing that struck me about this book was the amazing illustrations. The second thing was that the author began the story by writing in the passive verb tense. Action stories, and I assume this is one, should always be written using active verbs. You want the reader to feel that the story is alive and present. This continues throughout the book and noticeably slows the pace.

The gist of the story is that ant sized aliens have come to earth to harvest Teflon from landfill site for use on their home planet. The children decide to join them for an adventure. They are shrunk down to ant size and flow into the home planet. Unfortunately, it is under attack. Children who like aliens, Star Wars, Minecraft, and spacecrafts will enjoy this story.

The writing is charming albeit a little wordy. His description of the toddler coloring is both humorous and endearing. The book is mostly text with the occasional full-page colored illustration. I found it a little confusing to see the illustrations before I had read the relevant text and would recommend that several of the pictures be moved to later pages.

I love that fact that the little girl, dressed as the Princess, introduces the concept of kindness as an antidote to war. Her speech is inspiring and wise.  She also spoke about caring for the planet instead of destroying it and moving on. (Ironic since earthlings are determined to destroy earth.)

The plot is suited to children around eight-years-old but the vocabulary and scientific concepts are much higher. This book might be best shared by a parent with his or her child.

I was given a free e-book copy in exchange for honest review.

Buy link They’re Recycling Aliens: Return to Antanesta (Kweezy Caploza Tales Book 2)

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

1 2 3 Versus A B C by Mike Boldt.

 

This silly book begins with the number one saying, “Hello! I’m so glad you chose to read this book about numbers!” Traveling in the other direction, the capital A says, “Hi! I’m so happy you chose to read this book about letters.”

What begins with a friendly disagreement quickly draws in the entire alphabet and the numbers up to 26 as well as an alligator, two bears, three cars, four dinosaurs, etc. (There is no explanation for why the alligator is wearing a cowboy hat, thick black rimmed glasses, a striped tie, and carrying a briefcase.) The book gets zanier when the named animals interact with each other. Monkeys juggle oranges and ties while lions try to put together a jigsaw puzzle assisted by koala bears. Wolves playing violins ride unicycles. It is a fast paced book with expressive illustrations.

At the end, there is a double page spread of the numbers from 1 to 26 and the letters from A to Z with the occasional character tucked in between. The letter A and the number one shake hands and agree to call it a day. They walk off arm in arm. They stop, mouths agape, when a raspberry looking blob says, “Umm… Hello? I’m a little lost. I’m supposed to be in a book about colors.”

What a great jumping off point for a child or a class to make their own book.

Children between the ages of two and four often confuse numbers and letters. If they are ready, this book would help them to understand that numbers and letters serve different purposes. After reading through the book, it would be best to go back and focus on the letters second time. Then on the third read through, focus on the numbers.

Counting and alphabetizing are ways we bring order to our world. Basically, they are a type of categorization. Show your child how numbers and letters can help them organize.

You can carry this through into sorting items in the house, first by number, then by beginning letter, and lastly by color. Buttons are great for this. I recommend you do one type of sorting per day.

Here are some examples.

 

Expand into:

There’s more:

weight

texture

sound when dropped into a can

float or sink

stackable or not

expensive or cheap

used (recycled) or unused (new)

Can you spin it like a top?

Can you play tiddlywinks or pogs with it?

It’s only as limited as your imagination.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A Place to Call Home, Toby’s Tale by G. A. Whitmore. The Rescue Dog Tales. Book Review.

This story is told in first person from the dog, Toby’s, point of view. All the animals in the novel converse with each other much like those in Charlottes’ Web.

We follow the life of Toby, beginning with his grandparents. Toby is a pure white husky who has Wolf blood in him. Unfortunately, he is born to a breeder who plans on killing Toby and his sister because their unusual color will ruin his business. What follows is a repeatedly heartbreaking story. But, if you can push through to the end, Toby finally has the loving home he deserves.

This would be a terrific book for kids who love animals and dogs. It’s realistic and thought-provoking events will help the child to be more loving and responsible toward dogs and all pets.

The author, who provided the safe home for Toby, based this story in actual fact filling in the details using logic and imagination. She ends the book with discussion questions that would be suitable for classroom or for a parent to share with his or her child. Not only does this book teach kindness to animals but it brings up important topics such as personal responsibility, prejudice, and points of view.

Don’t be surprised if your child gets a little upset reading this. Although it is not gruesome, there are some seriously sad and infuriating moments with regard to how people treat animals. It is a valuable book that I highly recommend for ages 10 and up.

Click on the cover to buy the book.

The author will be interviewed tomorrow.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

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

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel. Book review.

This is a humorous alphabet book which actually goes through the letters several times. The first thing you notice is that there are two fake bites out of the book that go completely through the cover and pages in the middle.

When you open the cover, it has a list of words for ate or destroyed such as ate, bit through, chewed, dined on, engulfed, and so on. It ends with, “What a bad kitty.”

A fun followup with a class or child (over eight years of age) would be to pick a common action word for their pet, such as play, or person, such as say, and create a list like the “ate” list inside the cover. If you get stuck, use google or word to find synonyms.  For example:

Play: act, bounce, caper, dally, entertain, fiddle…

Say: announce, bellow, converse…

Turn the page and you see dirty footprints clawed furniture and broken items scattered around the living room. There is also a doodle on the wall of an angry cat and the cat’s tail is disappearing out of sight.

Then the story begins, “She wasn’t always a bad Kitty.” It goes through the alphabet of food the author tried to give the kitty when she ran out of cat food. Basically the alphabet is vegetables such as asparagus, beats, cauliflower, dill, eggplants and so on. On each page the cat makes a horrific sound and face in response to the beans vegetables and spices. I am not crazy about this section. It’s hard enough to get kids to like healthy food when they are bombarded with advertisements for unhealthy food without denigrating it in their reading. Explain carefully that cats have a strong hunting instinct and are carnivores.

At this point kitty becomes bad and begins to destroy the house in alphabetical order. “She ate my homework. Bit grandma. Clawed the curtains. Devoured my new book.” And so on.

When the author returns with new cat food, listed in alphabetical order again, the cat experiences joy and hunger at the offered entrées. They are “an assortment of anchovies, buffalo burritos, chicken cheesecake, a donkey named Dave, elephant eggs, fried rice, etc. This would be acceptable if the illustration didn’t actually show a dead buffalo wrapped in a burrito or a dead lizard wrapped in lasagna. My granddaughter and I found these pictures disturbing and disgusting.

At this point the kitty decides to be good again. He “Apologized to grandma. Bought me new toys. Cleaned her cat box. Drove me to school.” Etc. These pictures are very funny.

In the end the author tries to reward the kitty by bringing a wonky looking dog into the home and saying, “You can go to the park together and you can share your food with him.” At this point the kitty makes that angry face again.

Children can have fun imagining or listing destructive actions the cat engaged in next. Or, things he did to the dog (avoiding extremes). A for ate the dogs treats. B for hid the dog’s bones.  C for carried away his ball. Etc.

This is an hilarious and inventive book that will engage readers. I have qualms about reaction to healthy food (for people) and the whole animals in the cat’s food but, other than that, it’s a fun book for children who are ready for higher level alphabet books.

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

        

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A is for Anaconda: A Rainforest Alphabet by Anthony D. Fredericks. Illustrated by Laura Regan.

This is not an alphabet book for preschool or kindergarten children. In fact, calling it an alphabet book could be misleading. It is, in fact, an extensive resource book for information about rainforests. For example, a is for anaconda. Most letters receive a two-page spread. The detailed and realistic illustration of the anaconda fills one page and two thirds of the other. A four-line rhyme is imposed on the picture. It reads:

A is for Anaconda,
its size – a scary feature,
It swims and slips through rivers deep,
and eats most any creature.

For such a short little poem, it packs a lot of punch.

But that is just the beginning. a text bar down the side of the page explains how the anaconda is the longest snake in the world. It tells us that anacondas belong to a group of snakes known as constructors and relates in detail how they kill. Then it adds a little tidbit adding that A also stands for Australia, home to some of the most distinctive rainforest animals and plants in the world.

The letters are represented as follows:
B is for Brazil and bromeliads (plants).
C is for canopy and chicle (a gum).
D is for dispensers. (I bet you never saw that coming.) It is also for deforestation.
E is for epiphytes (a plant) and endangered.

And so on.

It is great to see an entire two-page spread dedicated to the medicines we have received from rainforests and could receive in the future , if there’s anything left. Also included are the Yanomamo people. The last page is the most powerful.

Z is for the number zero.
I hope you’ll understand –
it’s all the species that are left,
if we don’t preserve this land.

It states such facts as “The number of fish species in the Amazon exceeds the number in the entire Atlantic Ocean.” And finishing off with, “By some estimates at least one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second of every day.”

The last text before the ending bullets and answers to questions reads, “Some experts estimate that more than 130 plant, animal, and insect species are lost every single day due to rainforest deforestation (that’s about 50,000 species a year)! If deforestation continues at current rates, some scientists figure that nearly 80 to 90% of tropical rain forest ecosystems may be destroyed within the next 25 years.” (published in 2009)

Click on the picture to buy the book.

It is unfortunate that it doesn’t cite the biggest contributing problem – the massive intake of meat by an exploding population. According to my research, more than half of deforestation is done to create cattle ranches or, more often, to grow food to feed farm animals. The worst part is, the land can only sustain this for a few years and then they must move on leaving decimation behind them.

The fact “if deforestation continues at current rates” is misleading. The population of earth is presently at 7.5 billion people. Every day, meat producers are expanding their market into new countries and cultures. Because of this, and other more minor factors, the rate of deforestation of rainforests is increasing. Environmentalists and human rights advocates who have opposed cattle ranchers and big corporations have been murdered. Fewer people are willing to speak out. As a result, we will continue to the loose potential cures, trees that provide clean air, unique and wonderful animals, and stunningly beautiful ecosystems. For more information on this, watch the documentary Cowspiracy.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

An Unexpectedly Expensive Dog – What Pete Ate by Maira Kalman. Book Review.

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Click here to buy What Pete Ate from A to Z

Pete is a yellow dog who can’t stop eating everything he comes across. The book is based on an actual pet and his naughty eating habit. After the introduction, the author goes through the alphabet listing things the dog has consumed. It begins with cousin Rocky’s accordion. “All of it.” The accompanying picture shows the dogs torso shaped like the bellows of the accordion.

Some letters have alliteration to reinforce the sound. For example under B: “He ate a bouncing ball that belonged to uncle Bennie’s dog Buster. Buster is no bargain. He barks all the time. But still… Bennie lived in a beautiful room that had a Bed, Book, Box, and a Bottle of water.”

The author speaks directly to the reader to humorous effect. “He did not eat the cake from Olga, or the creamy cupcake. NO! He ate my CAMERA!! I love to take pictures. Look.” Then the author shares two silly pictures with us.

The typeset is an unusual mix of capitals and lowercase letters, for example, DoReen and accoRDion. It also seems to be a mixture of fonts. It gives the feeling of old advertisements. A child would have to be an experienced reader to handle this. There is some interesting vocabulary, such as gusto, fez, Morocco, continent, kazoo, and some very odd names.

The pictures are unusual too. At times they are off scale with distorted perspectives. Pages might hold a single item such as a key or be filled with extra notations and characters. It has the feeling of a book from the 40s even though it was published in 2001.

Although it is an alphabet book, I think a post kindergarten child would enjoy this the most.

After you read this book, it might be fun to go around the house with your child picking out things Pete might eat and saying what letter it begins with.

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Click on the item for more information.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Apple Pie A B C by Allison Murray. Book Review.

This very simple alphabet book tells a cute story. It is done with woodblock prints using white, orange, yellow, red, black, and blue in bright chunks of color. It tells the story of a little girl leaving an apple pie on the table in front of a hungry beagle.

It begins, “A apple pie” while the girl is sprinkling sugar on the pie. “B bake it” shows the pie in the oven and the dog following the delicious smell. “C cool it”. The little girl and dog are staring at the apple pie cooling in the window. The story continues with the dog’s eagerness for pie building and building until he gets sent to his dog bed. Eventually, he sneaks back into the kitchen, pulls on the tablecloth, and gets the pie. Each step of the story is told with a single word or phrase beginning with the featured letter.

The drawings are very simple but expressive. Murray shows the dog chagrin, excitement, hunger, misery, and sneakiness with a simple adjustment of two lines, one for the mouth and one for the eyebrow. Small children will love this book while they are exposed to the bright capital letters.

A delightful discovery.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Aster Aardvarks Alphabet Adventures by Steven Kellogg. Book Review.

This book is basically an alphabetical tongue twister. The first letter reads:

Aster Aardvark had an aversion to the alphabet. Appalled by Aster’s attitude, Acorn Acres Academy alerted her aunt Agnes, who arranged for an airplane to aid Aster’s academic advancement. After Aster applied herself and achieved and A, all assembled to applaud her amazing aptitude for aerial alphabetical aerobatics.

Each letter is a story or vignette onto itself. This includes a bear basketball team, and animal Symphony, archaeologists, and celebrities. All are represented by anthropomorphic animals dressed in clothing and living in a human world.

The pages are crammed full of detailed illustrations. There are so many patterns and movements that the eye is somewhat overwhelmed. This would be a great book for the type of child who enjoys studying each page and discovering more than what is seen at first glance. It would also be a challenge for children, or adults, to read aloud.

Click on the item or cover for more information.

  

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages