The Cat Who Loved to Swim by LeAnne Miller. Illustrated by Linda Manthey. Book Review.

The Cat Who Loved to Swim features a feline, Casper, who is being mocked by his friends for swimming. They tell him that cats don’t behave like that. Then, they each realize they are unique in some way. The goat likes gymnastics. The donkey sings. The monkey plays violin. Casper convinces them to compete in the Big Swimming Show even though they can’t swim. He pulls them on a raft while they display their special talents. The judges award them “most unique”. Casper ends with, “It’s fun and OK when you go your own way!”

This is a great message. Accept your friends as they are. Accept and be proud of your own unique skills.

Unfortunately, the book was written in rhyme, a challenge for any writer. The rhythm is unsteady, the rhyming pattern changes throughout, and some unusual words are used to fit the rhyming, such as “faux-pas”. This makes the book difficult to read aloud smoothly and with expression. Subsequently, it is difficult to maintain a child’s interest.

If you choose to write in rhyme, which is seldom needed, try reading it aloud and tapping to the beat. Then give it to someone who has never seen the book before and ask them to do the same. If either of you are stumbling, the rhyming isn’t working.

The illustrations are noteworthy. I think they are done with computer graphics but they have the feel of cut and paste shapes. With the simplest of pictures, Linda Manthey conveys wonderful charm and emotion.

This book has so much potential but does not truly fulfill it because of the difficulties of writing in rhyme. The story is cute and worthwhile, however. It’s worth taking a look.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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Milton the Christmas Moose by Steve and Jean Goodwin. Illustrated by Loanna Philippou. Book Review.

This book was written to teach children the importance of kindness, inclusion, forgiveness, and the spirit of Christmas. Milton has one antler smaller than the other and one leg shorter than the other. Like Rudolph, he is teased and excluded by his species. However he makes friends with all the other animals, helps them as much as possible, and encourages them to help each other. Because of this, Rudolph comes to visit him and brings him to see Santa. Santa grants him a wish. Milton wishes to be green with red antlers to remind people to keep Christmas in their hearts 365 days a year. This triggers a realization in the other moose who treat him differently from then on.
This book is obviously written for very young children, those who still believe in Santa and Rudolph. However it is a little long and challenging for children of this age. Parents could read it to them and explain some of the words and concepts.
Throughout the story we see that small kindnesses make a big difference in animal’s lives. This book lends itself well to discussions on how children can help others and make the world a better place through their small achievements.
I thought the new colour choice of red and green was a little weak as a catalyst for change by the other moose. Rudolph is accepted by the other reindeer because of his monumental achievement of saving Christmas and being exactly what Santa needed when the others were unable to help him. I felt this story needed a little more umph for the turning point. I was hoping for something new but it seem to be basically an echo of the Rudolph story.
The illustrations are cute, wonky watercolors. They are colourful and cheerful, however the illustration of Santa Claus was a little jarring and out of place.
At the end of the book it tells the reader to check out the Christmas song on a website. When you go there, this song is for purchase only and I couldn’t figure out a way to hear any of it.
A sweet, heart-warming book that encourages good values but doesn’t have the impact of Rudolph.

Damned If I Do and Damned If I Don’t

I understand why so many bloggers are refusing to review indie books. You get tired of this kind of stuff. I think I’ll be taking a break soon. It’s hard to be energetic and positive when I get this kind of hate. I’m not sure where she’s reviewed me but I think revenge reviewers should be outted. (I didn’t even review her for cripes sake.) This is what happened. I see why bloggers burn out.

From: Alma Hammond (I won’t post her email)
Sent: September 10, 2017 8:45 AM
To: b.ferrante@tbaytel.net
Subject: New Picture Book to Review

Hi Bonnie,

I popped by your website on a google search and was impressed by your blog of picture books.  I published a picture book a couple months ago that I would love to have you review on your site.  The book, in .pdf form is attached, along with a marketing piece I use to sell the books to stores (currently carried in 8 stores in the USA).

Let me know if you could be interested.

Best,

Alma R. Hammond

RATHER THAN GIVE HER A THREE STAR REVIEW, I SENT THIS MAIL:

On Sun, Sep 10, 2017 at 6:52 PM, B.Ferrante <b.ferrante@tbaytel.net> wrote:

Hi Alma,

There is a lot I liked about the book but I felt the ending was a bit of a let-down. It was a little too passive. I’ll pass on this book but keep me in mind for the next.

Ciao,

Bonnie

TO WHICH SHE REPLIED

Thanks B.  I left a review of Amida as well.  After reading it ( I bought it) I thought, what makes you an expert?  You have no talent in writing children’s books, so unoriginal and stupid frankly.

Little Mouse’s Sweet Treat by Shana Hollowell. Illustrated by Jennifer finch. Book Review.

This children’s picture book uses patterning in the text. Each page features a little mouse looking for a sweet treat something like this:

Hi Bear.

Do you have something sweet and yummy?

Why yes, said bear. A handful of honey.

Eek! said the mouse.

Honey is sticky and runny.

Sorry, said the  bear.

You should ask the bunny.

The mouse asks a bear, bunny, dog, cat, bird, pony, cow, and finally his mommy for a sweet . Luckily his mother has baked cookies for him.

The rhyming is a little forced in spots but holds up fairly well throughout. There are  no quotation marks.

Children will be intrigued by the reasons the mouse does not want any of the other animals’ snacks. Clover is too lucky, pie is too dry, milk looks like silk, a seed is not what he needs, hay is bland, and he passes on the grass.

Jennifer Finche’s illustrations are done in watercolour with a life-like style. The little mouse is endearing and expressive. The pony appears to be galloping right off the page and the Siamese cat holds us with his eyes.

This is a simple story to read to toddlers or for early readers to read aloud. It would be fun to continue the pattern with other animals. (It’s harder than it looks so you don’t have to make it all rhyme.) For example.

Hi Giraffe.

Do you have something sweet for me?

Why yes, said Giraffe. Leaves from the tree.

Eek! said the mouse.

Leave are bitter as tea.

Sorry, said the  bear.

You should ask the bee.

It would also be a lot of fun to act out the story and end it with baking cookies together.

Buy link http://a.co/cHUms0o

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Bear Hockey by Jessica Boyd. Illustrated by Maurizio Curto. Book Review.

This adorable 11 x 8″ picture book will be loved by boys and girls alike. A grey squirrel narrates the story which begins, “Good afternoon, sports fans!…It’s so cold that… The pond is frozen!… That means is the perfect time for Bear Hockey!” The squirrel explains that all bears, once a year, “strap on their helmets, lace up their skates, and pick up their hockey sticks” to participate in bear hockey.

The rules are:

  1. You use many pinecones instead of one puck.
  2. You high-five all the players and spectators multiple times before you start playing.
  3. You take frequent, frequent, frequent honey breaks.
  4. When the last pinecone is scored, it’s time for hibernation!

The emphasis throughout the book is on fun and camaraderie.

The bears wear a variety of colored sweatshirts.  Even though the squirrel announces at one point that the teams are tied, it seems there is only one goalie.

The illustrations are wonderful. Not an inch of space is left empty on any page. The text is superimposed on the busy illustrations. Bears of all sizes play together. Smiles are rampant. The pictures gleam with personality. The bears would make precious stuffed toys.

The littlest bear scores the winning goal (I think everybody won).

After all the excitement, the bears “brush their honey-covered teeth and comb their matted fur and snuggle under the covers for a few quiet months of blissful snoozing.” The book ends with a shot of the littlest bear cuddled up with his jersey. His skates, hockey stick, and helmet are at his feet. A picture of the hockey players hangs in his cave.

What a delightful way to remind children that unregulated hockey is supposed to be fun and that relationships matter more than winning. This would be a great gift, especially for a child who gets a little too intense over playing hockey with friends.

Amazon Buy link http://a.co/3ndl9Sp

Buttertart Books https://buttertartbooks.com/

Read the interview with the author here http://wp.me/p1OfUU-2t6.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Angelina’s Secret by Diane Merrill Wigginton. Book Review.

This is not the kind of book I typically review. It is a lightly historical heavily romantic novel. It features a kick ass heroine in a time where independence and strength in women was frowned upon. It is an adult book of 330 pages.

Angelina is on a ship and is captured by a privateer/pirate named Jude. His heart has been broken and he has a dark opinion of women until he meets Angelina. Angelina is a rebellious, but chaste, young woman until her passion is awakened by the blue-eyed pirate. While her family members are held hostage, Angelina dallies and begins a complicated romance with a man leading a double life.

Admittedly, the premise is fairly clichéd but Wiggington pulls it off if the reader is willing to suspend any skepticism and turn her imagination over to the realm of adventure and romance. Angelina reminded me of Scarlet O’Hara in that she was invincible and controlled by her passion. By the end of the book she had almost taken on super hero status.

The sex scenes emphasize romance while providing just enough detail to be titillating. This is a fun, light, enjoyable book, the kind one takes on vacation or to the beach. If you are looking for something fun that is uncomplicated and upbeat, then this is a book you would definitely enjoy.

Buy link http://a.co/6Mal4Tl

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Sammy and the Fire (A Dangerous and Exciting Adventure) by Lynn Miclea. Book Review.

This story is told entirely from the point of view of the dog. It is totally believable and makes the reader connect and care deeply for the dog. Sammy is an independent little soul. He digs a hole under the fence and keeps it a secret from his family. When he smells smoke, he uses this as an escape to find out what is wrong. Through great tribulation, problem-solving and courage,  he manages to save an old lady and her cat from a house fire.

Sammy was rescued from the pound. His memories show us what it is like for a dog to feel abandoned and then encounter a loving and gentle family. The book subtly reminds children how to treat dogs properly.

The story is highly dramatic and suspenseful yet the author manages to inject some sweet moments of humour such as when the dog hopes the peanut butter candy survives the fire.

Children who are beginning to read chapter books will absolutely love this story. It’s the kind of book you would want your child to read.

One suggestion I have for the author is that, especially with suspense, she should try to avoid using passive verbs. For example. to keep a tight, fast pace, instead of:

“was losing” use lost

“was thicker” use thickened

“was moving slowly” use moved slowly

She might want to use modern names for her children as Billy and Susie sound a bit dated. A good way to keep current is to check the list of the most popular children’s  names the year your  readers were born.

There are five excellent full colour illustrations. My only wish was that they would be full page. I viewed it on an e-book and they were quite small.

All in all, this was a lovely book that I would not hesitate to buy for someone who is just into chapter books.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Suess. Book Review.

 

I remember when this book first came out. Every principal and vice principal who had to MC a high school or elementary school graduation ceremony latched onto this book as a holy text. It was read to classes year after year and then continued to be spread by parents gifting it to their children. There is a reason it resonated so well.

Not only does this book contain sound advice for any young person heading out into the world but it serves as a reminder to us all of our possibilities and our challenges. It can be applied to the beginning of any new venture. I realized, because my granddaughter has a rather large vocabulary, that this book was suitable to read to her before beginning junior kindergarten. Although the message certainly wasn’t internalized on the first read through, the book launches well into discussion.

Everyone worries, whether they are beginning kindergarten, being promoted to the head CO, starting their own business, or leaving the nest, whether they will find their place and fulfill their potential. This book has a perfect combination of positive expectations and reality. “You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.” is followed with “except when you don’t. Because, sometimes you won’t.” Note the word sometimes. The door is wide open. The possibilities are there.

When children are inheriting a dying world with ecosystems being destroyed and pollution, including the dumping of nuclear waste, completely out of control. With wars on going and wars threatening. With obesity and heart attack hand-in-hand with poor diet and factory farming. With climate change bringing desertification, tornadoes and floods and who knows what else. With inner-city violence and the shadow of terrorism. On and on and on. Children need to have confidence and feel empowered but also realize that they will not be able to fulfill every dream or every goal.  Some things are beyond their control. What amazing discussions this book can trigger for any age.

I would say, don’t wait till university graduation or even high school graduation. Get this book into your child’s hands as soon they are able to comprehend it. Then again, you might want to save it for that moment of doubt when he’she faces difficult choices.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Three Grasshoppers by Francesca Bosca. Illustrated by Giuliano Ferri. Book Review.

This tall children’s picture book features three grasshopper friends, Charlie, Connor, and Carl. These talented musicians sing and play their instruments, write songs, and entertain the other grasshoppers. As winter approaches, they realize they have not stored enough food to survive the cold weather. Charlie tells the story of the grasshopper and the ants and the three friends agree that they must begin to store food.

Unfortunately, they are not harmonious workers and the three friends separate. Because they work so hard, they have no time for socializing or making music. When other grasshoppers approach Charlie to say how much they miss the music, he convinces them to work for him storing food. He preys on the grasshoppers’ fears and becomes a tyrannical overseer. Connor and Carl follow suit and soon there is room only for one more storage bin in the field.

The groups of grasshoppers argue over the remaining space and then begin to fight with weapons. Suddenly an elephant appears. Unaware, it is just about to crush all the storage bins when the three friends distract it away with music. Everyone celebrates the saving of the food supplies. Friendships are renewed and Charlie, Connor, and Carl promise to always work together and make music together.

What a meaty little story. Although not necessary, it is a good idea to familiarize the child with the original story of the grasshopper and the ants. This is a much more complex plot and there is much to be discussed about the theme. Here are some questions you could ask your child using vocabulary at her level.

  • Could the three grasshoppers have solved their differences and continued to work together?
  • Must they work so hard that they no longer have time for socializing or making music? Is there no middle ground?
  • Do you think the fact that they stop socializing and making music together impacted on their decision to fight with weapons for the last space? Do the arts have an influence on the way people treat each other? Do collaborative creations, such as writing and performing a piece of music, create bonds between the participants?
  • How do manipulators use fear to get others to work for them?
  • Are you familiar with the phrase, “putting all your eggs in one basket?” Was it wise for the grasshoppers to store all their food in one place?
  • Did you think little grasshoppers would be able to save colony from an elephant in another way?
  • What could the grasshoppers do differently next autumn?

I wondered about the choice of making a book 11.5″ tall by 8.25″ wide featuring ants but it worked well. The reader is brought down to the small ant world through the use of tall grass and flowers. The illustrations are done in soft colors, predominantly in browns, greens, grays, and white. Ferri gives the simple little ants revealing expressions and body language. To differentiate the three groups of ants, Ferri creates triangular, square, and round storage units. The jubilation illustrated on the last page is genuinely heart warming.

Highly recommended.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A Clever Variation – The Three Bears, An Alphabet Book by Grace Maccarone. Illustrated by Hollie Hibbert. Book Review.

Click here to buy The Three Bears ABC

This is an alphabet book that also tells the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It begins, “A is for alphabets, and here it is.” The alphabet is superimposed on a tree. Then the story begins. “B is for bears. There were three Bears – Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear, who were in bed. Then Mama Bear made breakfast – big bowls of porridge. C is for cool. The Bears waited for the hot porridge to cool. So Papa put on his cap, Mama put on her cape, and Baby his coat.” And so it continues with examples on each page of words beginning with the featured letter.

The story follows the traditional tale. And in case you’re curious, “Z is for zipped. Goldilocks zipped back home as fast as her legs could carry her. And Z is for zany… Because it was that kind of day!”

I thought this was a clever retelling of the story. I think the child should be familiar with the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears and with the alphabet in order to get the full enjoyment out of it. Children three years old and up would enjoy it. Beginning readers, on the second time through, could help to find the other words that begin with the featured letter.

The illustrations done by Hollie Hibbert are double spread, cute, and bright. They remind me of Little Golden books illustrations. Interestingly, Goldilocks has brown eyes and brown skin and a whole lot of blonde hair. I especially liked Baby Bear. He would have made a cute stuffy.

This is a book that could be revisited as your child’s understanding of initial consonants improves.

As a retired teacher, my first thought was how much fun this would be to share with the class and then choose another simple folktale to turn into an alphabet tale. Then, as a writer, I wondered if it would be plagiarism to do it with a different story. Maccarone could actually do an entire series like this. Looking at the numerous books Grace Maccarone has written, I see she hasn’t repeated the idea. Maybe once was enough! She made it look easy but I know it isn’t. Maybe you could try it. Not me, I already have more book ideas than I have time to complete.

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