The Dog Who Made Exploration Possible – The Miracle Dogs of Portugal by Tracey Aiello. Illustrated by Kent Barnes. Book Review.

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Click here to buy The Miracle Dogs of Portugal

Everyone knows Christopher Columbus but how many people know the true father of exploration, Henry the Navigator. This book details Henry’s relationship with the ocean as a child. He believes the sea is his friend and calls to him. During a storm, he slips away from his parents and convinces Diego Garcia, a fisherman, to take him out on the water. Diego owns a prize Water Dog named Milagro, which means Miracle.

Milagro, nicknamed Millie also has a special relationship with the sea. She speaks with the seahorses, the turtles, and even the tuna. When Henry falls overboard into the ocean, the courageous dog leaps into the water. The dog speaks to the sea creatures and Henry speaks to the ocean. The waves stop and both dog and Henry are rescued.

Upon returning to shore, Diego discovers that Henry’s parents are the king and queen. When they discover the dog saved their son’s life, they insist that he live with them in the castle but Henry says no. She is a prize water dog; she belongs with the sea. The king decrees that all Milagro’s descendents shall be named Portuguese Water Dogs and shall protect kings and fishermen.

When Henry grows up, he sails to Africa and India and inspires and assists such explorers as Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan. He builds a school where he teaches his students to navigate with the stars and listen to the sea. He is the spearhead of the Age of exploration.

Portuguese Water Dogs help fishermen for hundreds of years and become highly prized pets and working dogs.

The author has a talent for description that helps us empathize with the protagonist. “Henry ran down the cobbled road. He ran and ran, ignoring his heavy coat and pants as they grew soaked, forgetting about his cold hands in the rain seeping down his neck.”

Tracy Aiello has used a clever and interesting strategy to engage children in the study of history. Most children love dogs and also using Henry as a young boy for the protagonist guarantees kids will connect with this story. This book is the perfect size for children who are between picture book and early chapter book.

The left side of the page is full text and the right is illustration. The illustrations are done by Kent Barnes. They are loosely drawn cartoon type pictures with odd white outlines as though they have been cut out and paste it on the page. Prince Henry has a hairstyle that reminds me of Beavis of Beavis and Butthead. The backgrounds are minimal, generally a wash of color. I would have liked the illustrations to have some flavour of the time period.

A great book for children who like dogs or are interested in true adventure.

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The Author will be interviewed on this blog on March 15, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Wise and Beautiful – If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson. Book Review.

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 Click here to buy If You Plant a Seed

This stunningly beautiful book, with full color photographic-like illustrations, portrays animals realistically yet gives them human personalities.

A rabbit and mouse plant a tomato seed, a carrot seed, and a cabbage seed. They care for the garden until the plants are fully grown. When they harvest their work, five birds show up and stare at them, expecting the rabbit and mouse to share. At this point, you might expect this to become a Little Red Hen clone but it is so much more.

Through the exceptionally expressive illustration, Nelson shows the argument between the creatures which explodes into an all out food fight.

Afterward, mouse thoughtfully examines the cherry tomato and then offers it to the birds. The birds then use their flying ability to spread hundreds of seeds across the field. They help the mouse and rabbit care for the garden until the plants mature. Harvest time provides a wider variety of vegetables in plentiful quantities.

The sparse words are profound and exquisite.

“If you plant a tomato seed, a carrot seed, and a cabbage seed, in no time, with love and care, tomato, carrot, and cabbage plants will grow. If you plant a seed of selfishness, in a very short time, it will grow, and grow and grow into a heap of trouble. But if you plant a seed of kindness, in almost no time at all, the fruits of kindness will grow, and grow, and grow, and they are very, very sweet.”

This remarkable little book uses nature to illustrate our karmic consequences. We may think we are only planting vegetables but, by our actions, we are planting our lives.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Button Nose the Sad Little Bear by Gina Lobiondo. Illustrated by Brittany Wilder. Book Review.

 

Click on the cover to buy the book.

This picture book is in 8 x 10″ format. There is a lot of blue space on the cover and the title script is difficult to read. A bright and lively, larger picture of the bear and a clear, bold title would create more interest. Inside, we page through 11 pages before we get to the actual story. It begins,

“Once upon a time, in the time when your grandparents were small, a little bear was made. He had a soft brown body and sad, pouty little face and he was waiting for a home.”

This is a great start for a children’s picture book. We are immediately concerned that the bear might not find a home because he is pouty. We also wonder why he has that expression.

Button Nose is finally taken home to “Little Girl” who loves him and brings him everywhere. The toy is forgotten in a restaurant but, thankfully, the family comes back for him. When the girl is beginning to grow up, her mother sells Button Nose in a yard sale. His new owner ignores him and Button Nose misses the girl. Eventually he is sold to a collector and kept in a cabinet. He is deeply sad, but then one day the bear is sold again. To his surprise, his new owner is Little Girl, now grown up. She puts him in a place of honour on her bed and loves him completely.

The story ends here and the rest of the book is a 12 page photo gallery (one picture per page) of the actual Little Girl (Gina Lobiondo), her parents, her family, and Button Nose followed by 10 pages advertising the author’s other books. The story itself is 12 pages long out of a total of 45 pages. Environmentalists might find this wasteful.

The story is charming, a little like Toy Story in that toys just want to be loved and played with, or at least loved and not forgotten. I like the underlying message that love never dies and appearances, such as a pouty face, are not judge the same by everyone. Adults will find this book sweetly nostalgic.

The illustrations, set in an oval shape below the text, seem to be drawn with pencil crayon and pen. They are well done but I felt that the pictures could have been larger considering all the white space left on each page. Button Nose is also a difficult character with which to show any emotion but sadness. His expression never changes. It would be interesting to have him smile when Little Girl wasn’t looking. His emotional landscape is trapped in a pout. I think children would wonder, with concern, why the bear was pouty in every situation and with every person. I do think the packaging needs to be rethought as well.

Any preschool child with a special cuddle toy could relate to this story.

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

The author will be interviewed on this blog April 5, 2017.

Pegasus, A Dragon’s Tale will be reviewed on January 16, 2017

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Courageous Women, Fairies & Viking Ghosts: Author P.J. Roscoe Three Random Questions Interview

P.J. Roscoe is an award-winning author of three books and short stories in various anthologies. She has two more books in the works. She has been married to Martin for 22 years and has a daughter, Megan, who has autism and dyspraxia.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome P. J. You have had three books published this year. To what do you owe this burst of creativity?

P.J. Roscoe: My first award winning (best e-book in the Paris Book Festival April 2013, Honorable Mention in the New England Book Festival 2012) novel Echoes was actually written on/off for seventeen years. I finally self published in 2012. It won three awards and it was taken on by a publisher, but I left them in January 2016 to go it alone again and re-launched it.

Freya’s Child was written in 2014/15 and taken on by Crimson Cloak publishing and re-launched in September 2015. My Adventures of Faerie Folk is available from July 2016, but it’ll really be launched at a faerie festival in August. I’ve also been working on the audio-books for Freya’s Child and Faeries so they should be available by the autumn.

My creativity never stops! I have two books coming out Autumn/Winter 2016 and I’ve another coming out 2017, plus I’m researching the prequel to Echoes. I also have ideas for another three, plus 15 other faerie stories to bring to life and five supernatural short stories to decide what to do with!! My imagination makes me feel alive, so I use it whenever I can!

Ferrante: Your first book, Freya’s Child, has a fascinating tagline. “What would a parent do to save their child? Fight the dead? Defy the gods?” I’m sure every parent reading this is thinking, yes and yes. 

Roscoe: What if you are told your whole life that the gods require sacrifice and that person would be honoured and live a wonderful life in the halls of the gods? In early cultures it was considered an honour to die for your tribe.

So I looked at it from a modern family and a Viking family’s points of view. A parent loves their children unconditionally but for different people – does this mean the same?

My father’s family come from the Wirral and I grew up with the stories of the Norse finds that still continue to this day. I spoke with archaeologists and ‘The National Trust’ as it’s their land I base the archaeological dig – they were great. 

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 Click here to buy Freya’s Child

Ferrante:  Adventures of Faerie Folk: Volume One was published in July. Are these original stories? Have you used any traditional stories for inspiration?

Roscoe: I wrote many original stories years ago for my daughter when she was between 3 and 13. I would send them out to other parents to read to their young children and get feedback on them. My daughter, who is now 18 has autism and dyspraxia, and was being bullied and the other girls refused to play with her by the time they reached 9/10 years old. I wrote ‘The Rose Faerie’ to teach Megan that it is okay to be different. Genuine people will love you for who you are and look beyond the disability.

Ferrante: Do you try to have a moral in all of your stories?

Roscoe: I wrote stories to inspire the young to take care and be thoughtful in every action as it has consequences. I do have a moral in every story. The first book, Annabelle learns that kindness has many rewards and Kate learns that being horrible makes you prickly!

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 Click here to buy Adventures of Faerie folk: Volume One

Ferrante: The book is designated as Volume 1. Have you already started working on Volume 2?

Roscoe: I have the next four volumes ready, but illustrations cost a lot of money, so need to sell a few books before I can get the next one illustrated! Also finished the audio for the faerie book and it’ll be out through Crimson Cloak Publishing and Audible.

Ferrante:  Echoes seems to be a slight departure from the other two books. I love this line in your blurb, “Ghosts, past lives, evil and Tudors – what more could you possibly need?” I can’t imagine. It sounds delicious. 

Roscoe: Echoes started out as a short story that I wrote following the death of our son. I needed to occupy my mind and wrote it, but over the next months, it became a novel. It more or less wrote itself. When I look back on my writing, I cringe! No wonder it was rejected! Through experience and learning, it became a winner and I’ve begun working on the screenplay as I’m told so many times, how it would make a great movie.

I adore history, always have. The Tudors were a mercenary lot, especially Henry Tudor and his son Henry VIII. How the story evolved, I couldn’t tell you, but it had to be set near Shrewsbury and involve Henry Tudor and the battle of Bosworth somehow! Thus began years of research on and off. I wrote several historical articles for a Welsh magazine. I found pieces of information during my research that went into the book! Throw in some personal supernatural experiences and there it was! 

 

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 Click here to buy Echoes: Some injustices refuse to be forgotten

Ferrante: I’m so sorry about the loss of your son. 

Your books feature females in positions of strength and courage without presenting them as mutant superheroes. Do you think we need more books like this? 

Roscoe: I don’t believe we need to be ‘superhuman’ to show strength and courage. I have endured a lot over the years and fought to survive – I made it. Women are portrayed in the media as objects to be used and abused by men. We are desexualised and made to appear weak and in need of domination. Women are strong, beautiful, courageous people and I want to show through my books that women can survive any obstacles, and keep going regardless of what is put in their way. Women have read my books and they feel every emotion and go through the journey with my characters.

I still cry, feel joy, feel excited with my books and that’s what I want every reader to experience. The suffragettes would be turning in their graves if they saw how some behave and how men still treat us. Every book I write has strong women. Between Worlds due out Christmas 2016 and Where Rivers Meet due out 2017 are the next two. Diary of Margery Blake that came out September 2016 was a book that had to be written to show that even in such awful times as the 19th century, with no rights, women could still find courage.

Ferrante: What are you working on now?

Roscoe: As I type these answers to your questions (July) I am on third edit of Diary of Margery Blake Due out on 17th September. Also editing Between Worlds we want out by Christmas 2016.

Ferrante: What is the single most important thing you want readers to know about you that I haven’t asked?

Roscoe: I live life, I don’t merely exist. Life is not a rehearsal so enjoy it, but harm nothing.  I face the fear and do it anyway!

three random questions

Ferrante: If you can be the CEO of any corporation in the world, which one would you choose?

Roscoe: Lush – they are an ethical animal free 100% vegetarian cosmetics/toiletries company and I’d take down those companies who still believe it’s okay to torture animals for vanity.

Ferrante: And their product smell and feel so good!

If you could know without a shadow of a doubt the answer to one question that has always troubled you, what question would you want to have answered once and for all?

Roscoe: Gosh so many!! First one that springs to mind is – was it really an eagle I saw sitting on a log with a rabbit in its talons down a country lane in North Wales before whatever it was opened its wings, which were huge, and flew away over my head, as I’d stopped the car and got out!?

Ferrante: If your taste buds could be altered so that the taste of anyone food would be dramatically intensified when ever you ate it, which food would you choose?

Roscoe: That’s a hard one! I’ll say grapes. I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and I love my wine, so if I say grapes, then the wine should also taste fantastic!!

P.J.’s twitter handle Twitter@derwenna1

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/storyladyauthor/

Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/103527633975026566283/posts

Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/p-j-roscoe-8b895a66?trk=hp-identity-name

Goodreads Blog https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6575717.P_J_Roscoe

Freya’s Child was reviewed on this blog Monday, February 13.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

Who Would You Kill to Save Your Child? – Freya’s Child by P.J. Roscoe. Book Review.

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 Click here to buy Freya’s Child by P.J. Roscoe

There are three intertwining stories in Freya’s Child.

We have Einaar, Astrid and Inga, of Viking family trying to survive in a hostile culture. The beliefs, customs, behavior, and values of Vikings was fascinating. This was my favorite part of the book, well presented and interesting. I wish there had been more. I would have liked to get to know this family more intimately especially little Inga who seems more of a shadow child than a reality, even during her own time. I also found the events in these sections to be fast-paced and gripping.

In the present time, we have Katherine, an archaeologist, who has dreamt about Vikings since childhood. These dreams are so vivid she entertains the possibility of reincarnation. Here again, the author gives us delicious tidbits about life in a Viking village.

The third story is about a present-day family, Robert and Helen and their little daughter Cherry, short for Charlotte. I think the book would have engaged me more if we spent less time with this family, especially Helen whose behavior and thoughts became irritating after a while. In the first half of the book some of Helen’s vindictive and unforgiving behavior could be trimmed.

I don’t like to give too much of the plot away in a historical-suspense book. All three groups finally come together in a dramatic climax wherein the life of Cherry, the spirits of an entire Viking village, and the spiritual reunion of Einaar and Astrid with their daughter Inga are at risk.

It seems that this book is about a mother’s love for her child. But, in the end, in both circumstances, it is the father whose actions to protect his child bring him great loss. All four parents show tremendous courage and love for their daughters. It is nice to see girls treated as valuable, especially Inga. Even today, there are those who would judge her physical imperfection harshly.

The other theme that I found refreshing was the possibility that there is more than one type of afterlife. The Buddha said, “We make the world with our minds.” Perhaps we make the afterworld as well.

The author’s writing style is smooth and professional, in spite of the occasional typo. At times the situations or reactions seem clichéd or predictable but there is much that is original and rich as well. Helen seemed overblown at times, but then we have all met overly dramatic people who are probably not much different than this character.

Roscoe has created a compelling contemporary story with a rich historical background. She explores the intimate nature of family relationships with depth and empathy. An enjoyable read.

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The author will be interviewed Wednesday, February 15 on this blog.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Halito Gianna by Becky Villareal. Book Review.

Click on the cover to buy the book.

Gianna could easily become one of your children’s favourite book characters. This is a determined, bighearted, independent, and opinionated girl. She is resourceful and clever.

At the beginning of this story, her class is told that they are to dress up as their favourite character from a book for Halloween. Gianna suggests the heroine of The Rough Faced Girl. If you are unfamiliar with this book, I reviewed it on this blog a while back. The protagonist of this story is a First Nations girl with a pure heart, much like Cinderella. It is a character suitable to Gianna who also lives her life with honour.

In the first book in the series, Gianna joined a genealogy club and learned about her mother’s immigration. In this book, she becomes determined to find out what happened to her father, a soldier who went overseas and disappeared.

In the midst of this quest, a new girl arrives at the school; she is from the Choctaw nation, in Broken Bowl, Oklahoma. Gianna takes her under her wing and transforms what could have been a terrifying and terrible day into a fairly good one. The students learn about the origins of the lacrosse and the Trail of Tears many First Nations people were forced to walk.

I don’t want to give away the whole story. It’s touching and inspiring. Because of this little girl, and her kindness to others and determination, she and her mother have a happy ending to this particular part of their lives. I have to admit, this little book put a lump in my throat. Share it with your child. You’ll both love it.

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Review of Gianna the Great

Interview with the Author Becky Villareal

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Is There More to Mutilated Pelicans Than Angry Fishermen? – Tangled Lines by Bonnie J. Doerr. Book Review.

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Click here to buy Tangled Lines: Paradise in Peril

Bonnie J. Doerr has written a polished, exciting and important book. Tangled Lines deals with the destruction of natural habitat and cruelty toward pelicans, all in the name of profit. Doerr’s research is impeccable. The portrayal of the culture and community of Big Pine Key, Florida is realistic and believable. The reader is given an insight into the daily struggle of fishermen, the risks taken by Cuban immigrants to reach the United States of America, exploitation of the natural world, the senseless slaughter of wild creatures, and the courageous and giving nature of volunteers trying to protect endangered wildlife and the environment.

As well as a fascinating glimpse into this world, the author creates a realistic and touching story of unrequited love. Kenzie Ryan, the hero, has developed romantic feelings for her comrade in environmental protection but he, Angelo Sanchez, just wants to be friends. In turn, Angelo has fallen for a wealthy and beautiful girl from an influential family who also happens to be a good person. There is also a budding romance between Kenzie’s friend Ana and an older boy, who seems oblivious to her wheelchair. The complications and emotions of teenagers in relationships is shown with tact, understanding, empathy, and a sense of humor.

This book is an “eco-mystery”. As such, clues are given as the true reason behind the slaughter of pelicans unfolds. Kenzie and Angelo take great personal risk in order to protect the vulnerable animals. The suspense escalates to a satisfying climax wherein some people are showing to be worse than anticipated and some are shown to be better.

This book was 400 pages, but it flew by quickly. The editing was perfect. The pace was comfortable. The characters were likable and made us care about their future. The mystery was educational and worthy of our attention and time.

Although this book is written for middle grade children, young adults and adults would find it interesting and enjoyable. Highly recommended.

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

Bonnie J. Doerr was interviewed on this blog Wednesday, February 8, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Authentic & Important Environmental Mysteries: Author Bonnie J. Doerr Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie J. Doerr writes eco-mystery novels for tweens. For over thirty years, she taught reading and writing skills to students of all ages—from kindergarten to college. Her mystery/adventures are based on true events. Her books have received recognition from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration. She has been an Epic  e-book award winner for an outstanding children’s book and one of six finalists for the YA Green Earth award.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Bonnie. I’m looking forward to this interview. Your book has inspired some important questions.

Bonnie j. Doerr: Thanks, for the invitation. This Bonnie is happy for the opportunity to reach out to you, Bonnie, and your readers.

Ferrante: You used news accounts of the killing of an endangered deer as the catalyst for your book Island Sting. Other books have been fueled by a sea turtle caught in a net and the pelican with a slashed pouch. How do you take such tragic and brutal events and change them into a story that leaves young people with a sense of hope?

Doerr: Wow. You jumped right into the meat of these stories. Yep, I use actual heartbreaking events as motivation for my plots. Some are even personal observations. But hope arises from observing the real life heroes featured in my books who rescue, rehab, and release injured and abused animals.

Watching the selfless work of everyone involved in these organizations leaves me, and if I’ve done a decent job, readers with a deep appreciation for the greater kindness and loving hearts most humans have. These heroes inspire my characters’ actions. And what reader doesn’t want to see themselves in the hero?

The tragic facts are all background for the young teens who solve the mysteries by asking questions, discovering clues, participating in dangerous and devious events, arguing about tactics, taking wrong turns, until finally, just before things get brutally dangerous for them – these heroic teens crack the crimes. They were never without hope!

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 Click here to buy Stakeout

Ferrante: Sounds both inspiring and fun. When did you decide that you wanted to merge your passion for preserving nature and your educational skills into fiction writing?

Doerr: I was teaching middle school science years ago when my search for a fun read to support my environmental curriculum came up empty. I thought then maybe one day I’d take my shot at writing such books. But it was many years before I found the time to study the craft and go for it.

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 Click here to buy Tangled Lines

Ferrante: After writing your first mystery, did you change the way you approach writing a book?

Doerr: I think writers are always learning what works better for them. But many habits remain. I’m constantly reading news in every format, human interest stories, conservation magazines, books in many genres. Add to that listening all while awaiting the spark of an idea to research. I keep lots of short notes for plot events, character ideas, plot scenes, snippets of conversations, people to interview in a notebook. Very sloppy notebook, I might add. It’s hard to predict how it goes beyond that point, but some combination of panstering and plotting takes place on my laptop. I can’t seem to change being a “planster.”

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 Click here to buy Kenzie’s Key

Ferrante: That’s probably the method that gets your creativity flowing.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the senseless destruction of the environment and the animal world?

Doerr: To be overwhelmed is to feel helpless and hopeless. Such surrender would demean and deny the work of those who are saving and protecting our environment around the world every day (http://bit.ly/1TC8udQ). NASA’s Commander Bolden says this about collaboration in outer space, “… we’re traveling together as a human race that’s looking to expand the outer bounds of human possibility and progress.”  I believe his words can be applied to working for the health of our planet right here on Earth.

Ferrante: What do you do to refuel yourself?

Doerr: Science tells us everyone can refuel by spending time in nature (For example, this reference: http://bit.ly/1pfM8hq). I live surrounded by woods along a lovely greenway path and park. So this escape is easy for me, and truthfully, if I couldn’t easily commune with nature I’d likely go nuts. Escaping into the world of a book is also a major refuge. Recently, I read that for those who can’t easily get outdoors imagining the experience is doga worthwhile retreat. Research has proven nature scenes alone provide comfort and healing to hospital patients (http://bit.ly/1pjF4Fn). Imagine what immersion in an outdoor adventure book can do for people who spend too much time indoors. My novels offer just that kind of experience. I also recharge by traveling to new places, experiencing other cultures, and by spending time with friends and with my rescue dog, Salty (named after the dog in my books), who always puts a smile on my face.

Ferrante: I, too, love being outdoors (except when it’s 30C below). My favourite sound is listening to leaves rustling in  the wind.

Have any of your readers ever expressed their involvement in an environmental group because of what they have read in your books?

Doerr: My former editor told me she learned one reader established a green teen club at school as a result of reading Island Sting, but I never learned more about it. I wish I had. My readers are just under the age group that’s active online so I don’t often hear from them directly.

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 Click here to buy Island Sting

Ferrante: Please tell us about your research methods. 

Doerr: Most of my research is done in the field. I maintain contact with people I meet during my research and often refer to them when my memory fails, my notes are incomplete, or I need more detail. The field research is the most fun for me. The people I meet always show up on the page as bits and pieces of the good guys. Besides who wouldn’t want to spend weeks in the Florida Keys?

Ferrante: I would! I would!

What other topics do you think you might tackle in the future?

Doerr: I’m trying to boil down my ideas. Since I’m a bit superstitious, I don’t want to say more than my setting will be geographically different. I may even take a break from environmental issues.

three random questions

Ferrante: Aside from any family, friends, or pets, what would be the most difficult thing for you to give up in your life?

Doerr: I wouldn’t be me if I had to give up living with trees, flowers, plants – all things nature.

Ferrante: Me too. I love visiting big cities but I love coming home even more. Next question. Forget about soft sounds like babbling brooks, gentle showers, and warbling birds. What is your favorite loud sound?

Doerr: Dang, you took away what I’d most hate to give up. Truth. There is no loud sound I like. Loud sounds make me tense and hyper. I cover my ears at concerts, and thank goodness for closed captioning on TV. But the loudest tolerable sound I can think of is a seventeen-year cycle of singing cicadas. But how often do I have to hear that chorus?

Ferrante: I’m not a fan of loud either but I think I’d like to hear those singing cicadas at least once.

If you could live in any state other than the one in which you currently reside, which state would you choose?

Doerr: Gosh, I’ve lived in ten different states. Other than North Carolina where I live now, I can rule all of them out. Maybe I’d choose Vermont, but no, I can’t tolerate winter. So… hmm… has to be warmer than Vermont … but green… Oregon! It would be Oregon. Wait, maybe Washington. But it’s cooler than Oregon. Except I need frequent blue skies, so neither one. Wyoming – big blue skies. No, too landlocked and cold. You made it hard. No fair. I like the state where I now live. It may be cheating, but I’m going say Virginia. It’s only an hour’s drive to the state line from home. *wink*

Thanks for the fun, Bonnie!

Ferrante: Thank you for your thoughtful and inspiring answers. It’s been great getting to know you. It seems these two Bonnies have a few things in common.

Bonnie Doerr’s website

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Tangled Lines will be reviewed Friday, February 10, 2017 on this blog.

 

 

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

2012 Green Earth Book Award Short List-1

2012 Green Earth Book Award Short List-2

2012 Green Earth Book Award Short List-3

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Meow,Tick, Tock – The Golden Owl (Clockwork Calico Book 1) by Linda Axe. Book Review.

Click here to buy The Golden Owl (Clockwork Calico Book 1)

The characters in this novel were endearing and worth investing in emotionally. The clockwork calico cat has been modified by the inventor Lionel Cogg to have several super qualities. But her most compelling qualities are her loyalty and compassion. This is a little superhero everyone can love. She even comes with an adorable sidekick, a mouse she spared named Emmitt who risks his life several times in her service.

When her friend (cats don’t have owners), Lionel Cogg, is kidnapped by his arch enemy Jameson Morcroft, Cali and the mouse rescues him. This is where the story really takes off. Cali discovers a plot to steal the golden owl from the museum. However, the thieves are nasty, clockwork spiders with super qualities of their own and she must face them alone.

There are wonderful moments of suspense where the reader cannot put the book down until he or she knows the resolution. There are also lovely moments of friendship, without becoming saccharin.

Lana Axe creates a believable and interesting world. Kelly’s modifications and the clockwork inventions are explained in detail without becoming tedious. However, I was surprised to suddenly learn that in this steam punk culture, the bank’s alarm system was powered by electricity.

Axe is a polished writer, however it would be advantageous for her to avoid using so many clichés such as, “the clock released with an audible click, music to Cali’s ears.” As well, she tends to overuse sentences beginning with “as” or “ing,” which can be wearying to the reader.

There are some very funny moments, especially with the mouse. Axe delivers with perfect timing.

I wish Axe had explained why Lionel surgically modified the cat. It is obvious in the story that both the cat and mouse are highly sentient beings able of interspecies communication. Although Kelly cannot speak to humans, I would be more comfortable if this intrusive procedure was consensual or as a result of repairs done to her damaged body from an accident or disease. Cali condemns Jameson Morcroft on suspicion that he would operate on other animals but gives no reason why she is affectionate and loyal to the inventor who risked an innovative and dangerous procedure on her. Maybe I missed this. But experimentation on animals makes me cringe.

However, there is much to recommend in this story. Middle grade readers and up will enjoy it.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Swamp weed, again! Parenting a Picky Eater. Recycled Sundays.

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Children alter the contents of a refrigerator more than marriage, low-calorie diets, or self-improvement classes. They may not do the grocery shopping, but 9/10 of the list will be parents’ desperate ideas for edibles the child might be induced to eat.

Cave Daddy had it easy. He simply clubbed the sabertooth rabbit, carried it home, and handed it over to Cave Mommy who skinned and cooked it open-pit fire style. Cave Baby either aided or starved. The first time Cave Daddy, in an effort to improve his family’s diet according to the Neanderthal Food Guide, brought home a swamp weed, Cave Baby spoke his first word, “Yuck!”

Urban parents can forget bean sprouts and avocado, even for themselves. There is no room beside the currently favourite fruit, apples and only apples. For two full years this will be the only unprocessed food the child will eat, switching overnight two pears, only pears, I hate apples.

There are no ice cubes in the freezer since space is taken by Current Cartoon Remake microwavable dinners. These are most often used after the parent has spent hours cooking from scratch. The child will recognize that the twenty piece casserole contains parsley, which he decided yesterday was worse than swamp weed, and announce, “Yuck!” This is also true when the home-cooked meal has exactly the same meat, vegetable and dessert as the microwavable dinner. If parents could learn how to add that specialized cardboard flavour, they’d have a chance. Children will eat cereal that sparkles, comes in the shape of stars, letters, doughnuts, or hockey sticks, makes noise and contains a prize package guaranteed to cause a minor tidal wave when it falls into the milk filled bowl. Granola doesn’t qualify because it has “weird stuff in it.”

Parents learn to save empty margarine containers and stock up on plasticwear. At least two thirds of the refrigerator space will be taken up with leftovers, as in “You’re not having another cookie until you eat your noodles, bacon and eggs, pancakes, soup, steak, or vegetables.” The child will reply, “I don’t like noodles anymore. The bacon is too greasy. The eggs are dried out. The pancakes have raisins and I wanted chocolate chips. The steak is too fatty. The vegetables taste like swamp weed.” In stubborn persistence, (far simpler with a microwave than an open-pit cave fire but just as futile) the parents will continually reheat the leftovers until they have reached the texture and flavour of drywall.

Pity the poor parents who express delight when the child likes a new food outside the home. Just because the child ate chili in a restaurant, doesn’t mean he’ll eat homemade chili.

“Too tomatoey,” he’ll say.

“Of course it’s tomatoey,” Urban Mommy foolishly response. “Chili is made with tomatoes.”

“Yeah, but these are the wrong tomatoes.”

“They’re from our garden,” interjects Urban Daddy. “You helped pick them. Everybody’s Chili has tomatoes.”

“I only like tomatoes when you can’t tell they’re tomatoes,” the child will respond firmly.

Childcare experts (few of whom I’m sure actually live with children) say parents should learn their child’s preferences. Right. They hate macaroni and cheese casseroles, but love it packaged. They prefer chili without beans, lasagna without onions, and pizza with cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella. Any of this can be reversed at the stroke of midnight. In which case, the parents put the newly rejected food in the refrigerator in a container knowing it will be eaten the same day that the children claim to be receiving too much allowance.

Published Sunday, February 16, 1992 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Parents please note: this was written before the risk of putting hot food, and especially microwaving, in plastic became public knowledge. Please use glass containers in your microwave.

P.S. This same picky eater, now an adult, has become an advocate for plant-based healthy eating. He’d have no problem eating parsley, tomatoes, or even swamp weed now.

            

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages