Getting to the Vet on Time – Is It Possible? Recycled Sundays.

It’s bad enough when my mailbox is stuffed with bills, requests for donations, and rejection letters, but I really hate it when my cats get more personal mail than I do.

Their veterinarian sends them postcards. At least, they don’t picture domestic cats lazing in the sunshine on southern beaches wearing sunglasses and sipping kittenaid. The postcards picture a cat with his dentures in a glass and a dog with an ice pack on his toothache. It reminds them to brush regularly (in our house that is as often as they crown a new monarch in London) and make an appointment to have their teeth cleaned. I guess I can do without those kinds of postcards. Then again, so can my cats since they can’t see two-dimensional pictures anyway.

Vet day in our house resembles a chase scene from the old Keystone Cops movies. Everyone tears around the place, upsetting things, making spectacular collisions, and accomplishing very little. Because of our three cats – Virgil, Patch and Misty – we must go through this three times a year. We learned the only way to catch Virgil is to offer him food. That cat would put his head under a guillotine for kitty snack.

However, Patch has to be cornered. Everyone must act nonchalant. The cat traveling case should be hidden out of sight. Whoever is chosen to catch the animal must behave as though he is only slightly interested in the cat, just pausing for a quick petting. The more interest is shown, the better Patch hides. Once he is apprehended, he pays us back by dropping hair the way a lizard drops his tale or an octopus shoots ink. I suspect he thinks if he sheds enough hair in one spot, we will be fooled and take that to the vet instead. Too many trips in a row and he’ll be needing treatment for baldness.

Misty is almost impossible to catch. Highly suspicious by nature, we must be doubly sly to fool her. She is not drawn to kitty snacks and could live very well without humans, thank you, as long as she had clean litter.  SHE decides when and where she will be petted and by whom. Catching her requires an ambush which must succeed on the first try or the next 20 minutes will involve slamming doors, moving furniture, Olympic leaping, and bandages – for the human, not the cat. Once captured, stuffing her into the travel case is like trying to put bubbles back into soda pop.

I grew tired of all this nonsense, so when Virgil had an appointment, I caught him 15 minutes early and ignored his yowls of protest from the carrying case. Unfortunately, I had promised my children they could come and, of course, their school bus was late that day. They were met with a barrage of commands. “Respond immediately and cooperate completely or you’ll be left behind.” They unloaded their school stuff and then piled into the back seat. I put Virgil in his cage on the front passenger seat. The clock was ticking. Everyone had their assigned roles. This would be a test of our teamwork.

When I parked the car in front of the veterinarian’s, my son jumped up on the sidewalk and dropped the quarter into the meter as ordered. My daughter locked and slammed the sliding passenger door and then stood back. I jumped out and raced around to get the cat from the front passenger seat. Precise drill corp! We were amazing!

 

 

Then, I realized the passenger door was locked. My purse was on the floor with the keys in it. WE had made it on time, but not the cat. He was inside his cat cage, locked inside the car beyond my grasp. Fortunately, our vet still used wire hangers.

First published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, Sunday, January 24, 1993

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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Back When Tracing Your Ancestry Meant Hands on Research – Recycled Sundays

My family tree was a fascinating project, though not nearly as easy as I thought it would be. (Intrusive note: This was before the Internet provided historical information and genealogical lines. Everything had to be done by snail mail.) Originally, I was apprehensive about finding skeletons hidden in our family closet. It can be both humbling and a source of pride to learn your origins. It gave new meaning to the phrase, “You’ve come a long way baby.” when I learned one great grandfather was a gelder.

My husband doesn’t seem to have inherited many of his ancestor’s characteristics. One of his great-grandfathers was a scavenger and yet I can’t convince him to wash out the milk bags for reuse. Several were blacksmiths, yet he’ll only put a carrot on the fence for a horse because it slobbers when it eats from his hand. One great grandfather was a lighthouse keeper, which may be why it was so easy to convince him that changing burned-out bulbs was his job. Then again, several were domestic servants and that skill seems to have gone by the way of the dinosaur.

Many of my ancestors were well known for the determination, strength of character, and powerful tempers. A great grandfather used his squaring axe m split the bar of a local tavern with one massive chop. I guess the beer was warm. He was well known for the quality of his work and his temper. My husband always nods when I share these discoveries and makes no comment. They were laborers of the earth, miners, farmers, and lumbermen. This may explain why I keep digging up portions of the lawn for new areas to grow weeds.

One thing that always scratched at my mind was, why did the different lines in my family come to Canada? Don’t get me wrong. I love this country. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. But leaving a small island with hundreds of years of family history for one of the biggest wildernesses in the world seems rather drastic.

My family started arriving in 1775. No one came for Klondike gold. They would have been happy if the mice had left them a few potatoes. This does give me leverage with my son. “Eat your vegetables, dear, and be grateful you didn’t have to fight the mice for them like your great great great great uncle did. You could be reduced to eating boiled beech leaves instead.”

History offers some hints as to why they took the great risk. The Highland closures, the Napoleonic wars, and widespread famines may have encouraged them to ride overcrowded and under stocked ships. What would it take to make me leave my home for a wild, strange place where people did not speak my language? Yonge Street doesn’t count.

I would have to resign myself to be permanently lost. I still use a city map when I venture off the main roads in my own city. I’d have to build up those walking muscles, since I couldn’t carve a canoe out of a tree without power tools and probably not even with. My family would have to get used to living off lettuce, beans, and zucchini since those are the only vegetables I have any real success growing.

One thing I would do though, is leave a record of my birthplace for future generations. Genealogists know that family lines are also often lost when emigration occurs. In Canada, a country where provinces are generally larger than most European countries, a movement from west to east can even cloud the trail. I truly appreciate that back in the days of letter writing, people generally wrote the full date in the place the letter originated from. Today’s generation isn’t as meticulous. Their great-grandchildren will not thank them for.

“Oh, look,” one will say. “A letter written by great Nana so-and-so. September 5. Most of it is smudged. Written with the blue felt marker. She mentions treeplanting. Do you think that’s when she lived in the country? Or during her protest years?

More and more people send letters by computer. Unless the recipient prints them out saves them, as unlikely as Sea World setting Shamu free to live with Willy, there will be no record once the delete key is pressed.

Remember 45 records and tapes and singletrack Betamax? What if you want to access something that is recorded on these devices? You shrug, that’s what. The hardware is becoming nonexistent. What will happen when our descendents want to access all the family records now on Mac and Apple and IBM?

“I saw an actual disk drive at an antique sale,” T.J. Jones IV will say. “If only I had access to some old-fashioned electricity.

I wonder if he’ll force his children to eat their food crystals by saying, “Clean up your plate and be grateful you didn’t have to face an actual checkout line to get it like your great great great great grandmother.”

August 1, 1993

Chronical-Journal Regional Newspaper

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Dancing on Daddy’s Shoes by Gabriel Dietch. Illustrated by Ashley Lucas. Book Review.

This book subtly addresses a complicated topic, that of infertility, with grace and beauty. I think it is written for parents to share with their children. I’m not sure if it’s necessary, though. Do children need to know that their parents had trouble conceiving and had to take medicine? Perhaps this is more of a book written for the prospective parents who are struggling. If this book is, indeed, meant to be shared with a child I think all they need to know is that the parents wanted them so much and had to wait such a long time. That’s enough to make the story precious for them.

The illustrations are sweet and gentle as are the words. You can feel the parents’ deep desire to have a child to love. When the baby finally arrives and dances on her father’s shoes it evokes strong emotion.

The text, however, has some problems. There are some phrases that are absolutely lyrical but it seems to jump from prose to rhyme to something else. At times, it stumbles.

We travelled far and saw many places that were really neat. The one I saw the clearest was a land with the tallest trees.

The tree and I walked down the beach so he could show the stars to me. “Have you wondered why your timing for this dance is in a freeze? Sometimes one must wait for that truly special girl you seek.”

“I have helped so many find their way; some aid you both sure need. Sometimes parents require some help to make a beautiful being. If you can’t create naturally, don’t fret; there is a way if you follow me. But to create another shows one’s love, so you cannot be bleak. Why shouldn’t you have this dance you truly seek? My magic medicine may help. It is a way, but you must follow it every day.”

Also, on my e-book version there were several pages that had gibberisheither in addition to the text or in place of the text.

Asdasdasd p

S S S S adaa asdasad

qwdqwe qweqwe qweqwe

I think if the author polished the text and marketed it to parents, it could be very popular.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Deeply Touching – Just the Two of Us by Will Smith. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Just the Two of Us

On the first page of this book is a rap by Will Smith that summarizes what the book is going to be about. Basically, this is a love story between a father and his son.

The dad wants so badly to be the best dad possible for his child. His love is all-encompassing, protecting and freeing at the same time. He gives his son advice such as when a girl breaks your heart don’t take it out on the next one and always tell the truth. But consistently throughout the book the message is powerful, “I love you and I’m here for you.”

The book has a poetic rhythm. I’m quite sure Will Smith could rap the entire thing and make it sound even more beautiful than when I read it myself, especially since I choke up.

The illustrations are stunning, realistic paintings of an African-American family. They absolutely glow with love. Kadir Nelson captures the personalities of the father and son beautifully.

This would be a perfect Father’s Day gift or a gift for a man expecting the birth of his first son. It shows a father how to be a father, what it means to believe in your dreams and to help your child believe in his.

Even though the father and son in the book are African-American, any man who has experienced becoming a father will relate intimately to Will Smith’s touching, powerful story. What a great book to start the month. I wish I could give more than five stars.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Joy of a Grandpa – I Already Know I Love You by Billy Crystal. Illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles. Book Review.

 Click here to buy I Already Know I Love You

This book is written to an unborn child from his grandfather. It begins:
“I’m going to be a grandpa!
I have the biggest smile.
I’ve been waiting to meet you
for such a long, long while.”

The book goes on to talk about all the things the grandfather plans on sharing with his grandchild, baseball, animals, flying kites, peekaboo, singing her to sleep, and more. The rhyming holds up well and complements the gentle, lullaby tone. I could easily see this being sung to a child.

One especially lovely part is where he reminisces about taking her mommy to her first movie when she was little.
“When I took your mommy,
I never watched the screen.
The movie was in her smile –
to her was a dream.”

This book is a touching, loving devotion to an unborn child. It would make a beautiful present from a grandfather.

The illustrator, Elizabeth Sayles, does a wonderful job of creating realistic, endearing, and beautiful pastel pictures. They are a perfect complement to the words.

Billy Crystal has created a book that is bound to become a family favorite and kept in a memory trunk long after the child has outgrown it. Highly recommended.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Tea For Ruby by Sarah Ferguson (The Duchess of York). Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. Book Review

 Click here to buy Tea for Ruby

If anyone has had experience drinking tea with the Queen, Sarah Ferguson would be one of them. So we are cleverly seduced into thinking Ruby is actually having Queen with her Royal Majesty Elizabeth II. This is reinforced when everyone she meets gives her advice on how to behave.

“I hope you won’t shout when you have tea with the Queen.”

“I hope you won’t interrupt when you have tea with the Queen.”

In spite of this relentless barrage of advice, Ruby excitedly shares her invitation with everyone she sees, the letter carrier, the soccer coach, the dance instructor, and more.

The tension builds and builds until finally the day arrives. Ruby wears her prettiest dress, a tiara, and carries a bouquet of flowers. Her parents drive her to a beautiful floral-lined path.

“Grandma?” says Ruby.

“My princess!” responds a woman in a semi formal dress draped with costume jewelry and a tiny fake crown.

On the yellow and green shuttered house is a banner reading Welcome to Tea at the Palace!

You might think that the reader would be disappointed to find out that Ruby will be having tea with a member of the family instead of royalty but this isn’t so. Children are delighted that Ruby’s grandmother has gone to so much trouble and they are sharing this special, memorable moment together.

On the last page is a note reading, “Dear Grandma, Thank you so much for inviting me to tea. I tried to use my very best manners. The tarts were with delicious but my favorite thing was just being with you! I love you, Ruby.” This exchange is better than 100 visits with the actual Queen. (No offense to Her Royal Highness.)

The illustrations are extensively detailed. Ruby tries on several gowns in preparation for her visit but her imagined outfits and surroundings are pure delightful fantasy. Little girls will love studying the formal costumes. Glasser has created a fascinating set of illustrations.

I was deeply pleased with this book and would recommend it to any parent or grandparent who loves to play Princess or tea with a child.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Poppa’s Goat written by Gary Hutchison. Illustrated by Gordon Court. Book Review.

This picture book tells the story of a grandfather who is fed up with the mess the paperboy makes delivering flyers. Instead of coming to the front door, the boy leaves the flyers on the front lawn where they blow all over the yard. Poppa’s granddaughter, Madeleine, comes to visit and misunderstands the phrase, “paperboy really gets his goat.”

Madeleine and Poppa build a box for the paperboy’s flyers and attach it to the fence in the front yard. Unfortunately, robins come and build a nest in the box so the papers wind up everywhere again. Madeleine and Poppa pick up the papers and create a papier-mâché figure representing the paperboy. The grandfather gives it to the dog who tears it to pieces. Funny and a little bit creepy at the same time.

Finally, the grandfather takes Madeline and their dog Stanley to a farm where they purchase a goat as a pet. Poppa specifically wants Little Goat to live in the backyard and eat the grass. But every Thursday, “he will go in the front yard and eat the flyers the paperboy puts on the ground. Goats love to eat paper.” The goat performs as expected. Madeleine and her grandparents celebrate with chocolate milk. The little goat curls up with the dog to sleep.

The illustrations are excellent. Gordon Court has an interesting angular style of drawing. Although the pictures are probably done on computer they feel close to hand drawn pen and ink outlines with color and shading.

The story is cute and funny and lends itself well to discussions of idioms, problem solving, and the raising of goats. On that last subject, please be sure to explain to the child that although goats love paper, giving it to them in great bunches as a regular diet is a bad idea. The paper has no nutritional value and a kid (baby goat) with a full stomach will not be able to eat his proper food to aid in growth. Eating too much paper can cause a blockage in the goat’s bowels, a major threat to his life. Flyers often contain toxic ink and full colored glossy pages are particularly poisonous. As well it looks like Poppa lives in the city where having a goat for a pet is not ideal. Be sure to explain to your child that this story is written just in fun.

The relationship between Madeleine and grandparents is positive and heartwarming. Perhaps you and your child could brainstorm as to how the two of them could solve this problem in a different way such as putting up a “No flyers please.” sign or hanging a paper box with a lid.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey. Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson. Book Review.

The Tiny Hero contains well-done black and white illustrations for each chapter.  There are 324 pages but the type is large and well spaced. This book is immediately engaging. Even though it is written for children ages seven to twelve, I was completely hooked.

The reader can’t help but love the little hero, Eddie, a tiny bug who braves the huge halls of the school, dodging a spider, a mouse, and lots of squishers (humans who stomp on bugs), in order to find his missing aunt.

Aunt Min is special. She has taught Eddie to read and told him many stories she overheard in the school library. These are books every child should experience from the works of Dr. Seuss to E.B. White. Avid readers will nod their heads with understanding whenever these books are mentioned. You may want to find those you haven’t read.

The novel supports reading and libraries at a time when many are shrinking or disappearing. Little Eddie reminds us of all the reasons we love a children’s library and why it cannot be replaced by a computer terminal.

The first quest for Eddie is to save his aunt and then protect his foolish little cousin who has followed him. The second one is to save the library from a substitute librarian (sister of a powerful administrator) who wants to board up its beautiful windows, remove all the books, and turn it into something less expensive. It seems an impossible task for a little bug to stop the demise of the beloved library when even the principal has trouble asserting himself but Eddie is committed and clever.

This endearing, suspenseful, and thoughtful book will connect with children and parents alike. There are acts of courage and sacrifice, a great deal of humor, subtle ethical topics, and tributes to our most cherished children’s books. I love how we see the world through the eyes of a small, defenseless creature who only wants to survive with his family. (A good discussion could follow about how some humans are “squishers” of small insects and how this contrasts with the compassion other people show to the small and defenseless.)

This book doesn’t touch on the topic of bullying but I believe if children are taught to show kindness to the smallest and most helpless, they are less likely to bully others or to be speciest. Little Eddie and his family are adorable ambassadors for compassion.

Highly recommended. Buy link http://a.co/bOOONR1

I was given a copy of this book for review.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Wolfie by Ame Dyckman. Book Review.

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 Click here to buy Wolfie the Bunny

Ame Dyckman answers the ever puzzling question of nature versus nurture. She comes down squarely on the side of nurture.

In this story, a wolf pup is left on the doorstep of a rabbit family. Mama and Papa instantly love the baby wolf but their daughter, Dot, lives in terror of being eaten. Wolfie, who constantly wears a pink bunny onesie, adores Dot and follows her everywhere. The wolf is raised on carrots but still grows to be more than twice the size of Dot who continues to keep her eye on him. When a bear tries to eat Wolfie, mistaking him for a pink bunny, Dot comes to her adopted brother’s rescue. After this, Wolfie adores her even more and Dot accepts and trusts him.

This is an hilarious story about the power of love and inclusion.

OHora outlines his characters in thick black lines. He uses only yellow, cream, white, green, black, red, pink, and grey in his pallet. There is no blue, purple, or brown. It gives the pictures a soft, sweet tone.

Whenever Dot is claiming, “He’s going to eat us all up!” the font changes, the letters are in bold text, and words are out of alignment. This brings home her dramatic terror.

This combination of writing and illustration has produced a book that is sure to be a family favorite.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Buddy’s New Friend by P.T. Finch. Book Review.


If you are thinking of getting a dog and already have a cat, this is the perfect book to share with your children before hand. The author understands animals and deals with them compassionately.

Buddy’s New Friend buy link

The children realize that Buddy, their cat, is lonely when everyone is away. (Although cats are not pack animals, they are mentally healthier with another animal.) The family decides to get Buddy a dog for company. When one of the children suggests a pet store the father says, “Well, the pet store is one place to get a dog. But I think it would be nice to visit an animal shelter.” I inwardly cheered. Most people don’t realize that pet stores often get their dogs from puppy mills where females are bred to death, dogs are kept in crowded dirty cages, and animals are not given veterinarian care. Mommy explains that shelters are for dogs and cats who need a good home. This makes the children even more enthusiastic.

At the shelter, the children play with the puppies. Then they notice an older dog. The caretaker explains that it is a gentle, quiet dog so they take him. How wonderful! Older dogs are usually put down because everyone wants a puppy. I love that this book encourages people to think differently.

Unfortunately, the new dog, named Sam, behaves in a way that upsets the cat. Buddy becomes distressed and afraid. The little girl cries because she thinks Sam will be sent back to the shelter but these parents know what they are doing. They work with the pets to help them accept each other. In the end, the dog and cat are friends. Fabulous.

The author then lists a page of discussion questions for families. I think they provide a valuable jumping off point for parents who will read this to their children.
The illustrations are highly professional, clearly demonstrating both the people’s and the pet’s emotions. This is also a diverse book.

This is a caring and well-informed story that children will enjoy and parents will appreciate. Excellent!