Words are Confusing – Recycled Sundays

Considering the complexity of the English language, rich with synonyms, homonyms, and metaphors, it is amazing that humans understand each other as well as they do. Still, if we could eliminate misunderstanding most therapists, lawyers, marriage counselors, and peacekeepers would be out of a job.

 

Children play an old game called telephone or gossip which also illustrates how garbled messages can become once they leave the first pair of lips. A single misunderstood word can give the sentence a widely different meaning.

 

It can be very confusing for a child when they have missed understood a word and then hear it in a different context. I remember when my son was first learning to play Monopoly before he could read most of the words. He thought Pacific Avenue was Specific Avenue. He finally asked me to explain this oddity when I use specific in a non-Monopoly context too many times.

 

He also thought Qaddafi was a car. I wondered what brand of oil Gaddafi would use.

 

News broadcasts, often told too quickly, are a great source of misunderstanding. When President Bush made a cultural faux pas and offended the Australians, it was the topic of discussion at our dinner table.

 

“Did you hear?” said our daughter. “The American president gave the V for victory sign wrong when he drove past some Australians in his car and now they’re mad at him.”

 

“That’s not true,”said my son.

 

“It is so,” I said my daughter. “I saw on the news. We even talked about it in school.”

 

“That’s impossible,” continued my son who was an avid student of geography. “How can the president of the United States drive. his car to Australia?”

 

Perhaps in a Gaddafi.

 

After further discussion of the history of the V sign, my son offered his own interpretation. He thought that perhaps politicians use the two fingers up to signal the postal employees to raise the price of stamps two cents.

 

Even simple words used in slightly different ways can be misleading. My husband said they were 2000 applications to attend the faculty of education this year but only 400 seats were available. My son wanted to know if the rest would have to stand. I hoped it wouldn’t have to be in an unemployment line after graduation.

 

I often wonder about the hidden messages in questions. Recently a waitress asked if I wanted something tall and fruity or short and tart. Neither sounded appealing to my tastes.

 

You can often tell a lot about someone by what they don’t say. In a West Coast First Nations burial ground, time is marked by centuries. The headstones say which century a person died in. That certainly speaks of a long-range view. Without ever having met them, you suspect they are the kind of people who would support Spaceguard. Spaceguard is a proposed project that would track asteroids and comets heading toward earth that are capable of killing  one billion people or more.

 

We are living in a time when the information highway is spreading, yet few people can read the road signs. If you’ve ever followed a debate on a computer bulletin board you will have seen communication and miscommunication at its highest level. Unfortunately, those who don’t learn to ride the information highway will be bypassed or perhaps driven right over. Still, it is a message labyrinth even King Minos would find puzzling.

 

Numerous episodes of  In Search Of and Ancient Mysteries are devoted to unraveling messages left by previous cultures. I shutter to think what future cultures may deduce from our leavings, Madonna videos, Beavis & Butthead cartoons, newspaper war coverage, Snow CDs, bathroom graffiti, and income tax guides. If we have trouble understanding it as we live through it, future civilizations will be stunned. Anthropologists and archeologists will probably term it as the Time of Insanity. The general public will ask them to be more specific, especially about the game called Monopoly.

 

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times News

February 6, 1994

Advertisements

Dust flowers by Lisa Gammon Olson. Illustrated by Kyle Olson. Book review. Tales from American Herstory Series.

This lovely and engaging picture book tells the story of the dust bowl era in the United States through the eyes of a little girl. Her grandmother tells her stories of the beauty of the land before the drought. The little girl has no memory of it and barely remembers her mother ever wearing a smile.

One day the girl finds a little green shoot and secretly waters it until it until it blooms into a gorgeous vine of morning glories. When her mother sees it, she smiles and dances with joy with her daughter. Although another dust storm is rising, they also hear the sound of thunder foretelling the coming end of the drought.

The pictures are soft, expressive watercolour hinting at dust without being overly oppressive. The story is told with tact, beauty, hope, and charm. I did, however find the occasional fully capitalize the word distracting and did not understand its purpose. This wonderful book would be a great addition to any classroom shelf or child’s personal book collection.

Buy link http://a.co/4ldRov2

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

New Free Video – Full Second Edition of Rayne Shines

The entire text of my book, Rayne Shines, is now available as a free video on YouTube. Check it out along with other read aloud books, stories, and educational activities on my family safe site.

Rayne is bored with life until a new family moves in next door. Why do they look so happy? Rayne wants to know their secret. Rayne Shines is a humorous and thought-provoking picture book for ages 5-8. This second edition features humans instead of frogs and an updated story.

Buy link http://a.co/1U0K9S0

The Road to Ever After by Moira Young. Book Review.

This highly unusual book is told from the point of view of a 13-year-old orphaned street boy named Davey David. Lizzie, an elderly woman dubbed as a witch and a child who has the fascinating talent of drawing angels in the dirt go on an incredible journey together. Lizzie, to say the least, has unconventional expectations of a young man who seems destined to fill her last request.

During their flight across the country, they encounter an hard collection of situations and people. My favourite was their mad-cap release of doomed turkeys on their way for slaughter. This little scene echos a major theme of breaking free and going beyond death.

The writing style and the themes of regret, guilt, and death, however, will interest YA and adults equally. The book can be read at many levels.The story is poignant, sad, mysterious, and funny.

The two protagonists are at opposite ends of the age scale. Readers will connect differently and the takeaways will be as varied as their own personal experiences. The tone of this book is somewhat like the Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Midnight Circus but it also has the feel of a buddy road trip. It’s sure to be enjoyed by readers who like books that make them think, feel, and laugh.

Buy link http://a.co/jcVjfpj

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Digby of the Dinosaurs by Linda Yiannakis. Book Review.

I don’t think I can actually do this remarkable book justice.

Summarizing the plot, a little boy inadvertently finds himself in a secluded world where some species of dinosaurs still exist and have evolved to a higher level. But it is so much more than that.

Told mostly from the point of view of Digby, a orphan who feels unloved, the book strikes at the core of personal identity and need for family. The author avoids the trap of info dump even though the culture she is portraying is complex and rich. She allows the background to unfold slowly through the eyes of the little boy who wants, so badly, to fit in. The reader becomes deeply attached to this child and wonders how he is going to possibly survive in this world.

The concept of unconditional love is beautifully portrayed by the mother dinosaur who adopts her foster child without giving into any reservations. In many ways, the dinosaur culture is far superior to that of human culture and give us much pause for thought. This would be a discussion stimulating book to share with your child or class.

The story is not all serious message though, as there are many humorous moments. The ending is exactly what it needs to be and we are left with a full heart and a satisfied sense of completion. Linda Yannakis shows herself to be a superior writer and storyteller in this masterpiece.

Strongly recommended for readers aged nine and up.

Buy link http://a.co/0mb8M48

smilesmilesmilesmilesmile

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson and David Roberts. Book Review.

 buy link Tyrannosaurus Drip

This is a prehistoric version of the Ugly Duckling. When the duckbilled dinosaurs egg is accidentally mixed in with the eggs in a tyrannosaurus’s nest, the duckbilled is raised as one of their own. He is mocked by the family for looking weak and having a mouth like a beak. He refuses to eat meat, dining instead on vegetation. When the family chants “Up with hunting! Up with war! Up with bellyfuls of duckbilled dinosaur!” The little duckbill sings the opposite.

The tyrannosauruses are eager to cross the river and fill their bellies with duckbilled dinosaur but this is impossible because they cannot swim. The little duckbill discovers he can and makes friends with the animals living on the other embankment. When a tree falls across the river, it is the little duckbill who saves the other duckbilled dinosaurs.

While this book is pro-planet-based diet, and I’m all for that, it seems a little harsh on the tyrannosauruses who are following their own natural instincts. In order to make their defeat more palatable the author has painted them as war crazy monsters. Fortunately, they are not killed in the end but simply washed out to sea. They were, after all, his parents for a while.

Children will enjoy the fact that the littlest duckbill is the one who saves everyone. In spite of being bullied, he has grown up with a positive and loving nature. In the end, he is welcomed into his new/original tribe.

Children who love tyrannosaurus rexes might not like their defeat but it is a funny twist of events. It shows that wits can overcome might. Children who find themselves surrounded by bigger, tougher siblings and neighbors may feel comforted by this unusual story.

smilesmilesmilesmile

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

An Attitude of Gratitude Creates Happiness

The second edition of Rayne Shines is now published. The characters are people instead of frogs and the text has been tightened. Here are the first few pages.

Rayne is bored with life, until a new family moves in next door. Why do they look so happy? Rayne wants to know their secret. Rayne Shines is a humorous and thought-provoking picture book for ages 5-7.

In a subtle and humorous way, the story shows how attitude and perception create either happiness or misery. Rayne learns that gratitude, playfulness, optimism, and simplicity bring joy.

Buy link http://a.co/agCf1sP

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

 

 

 

Eating Green by Molly Aloian. Book Review.

 Buy Link Eating Green (Green Scene)

“Eating green means understanding the impact our food choices have on the environment and trying to lessen that impact. To eat green, we must buy food with little or no packaging. We should eat fresh food and local food that is grown or made nearby. Eating green also need avoiding foods that have been sprayed with harmful pesticides.”

Although this picture book is written for children, it is a reminder for people of all ages of the impact of our choices. It discusses necessary and unnecessary packaging and its impact on landfills. It explains the difference between processed foods and fresh foods and their impact on the earth and our bodies. Organic foods are preferred and the harmfulness of pesticides is explained. The reader learns why buying local is a good habit. The accumulation of toxic plastic drinking bottles is examined. The book encourages little-free lunches. It ends with the beautiful double page spread on the importance of family mealtime. Bonus: a simple but healthy pizza recipe at the end of the book. There is also a glossary and an index.

The illustrations in this book are full-color photographs which highlight and elucidate the message. You cannot look at that pile of garbage, mostly plastic, and not feel we need to change. This is an excellent book for families to share.

smilesmilesmilesmilesmile

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Let’s Eat! What Children Eat Around the World by Beatrice Hollyer. Book Review.

This book features food of five children: Jordan from France, Luis from Mexico, Thembe from South Africa, Yamini from India, and AA from Thailand. Each section gives an overview of the child’s life, family, and food. It features a special day where food is prominent. The book begins with a chocolate cookie recipe from chef Jamie Oliver.

Eight-year-old Thembe has to carry water in a clay pot, walk across the hills to school, work in the vegetable garden, collect firewood, and help with dinner. The special event is a wedding.

Something that will surely encourage discussion, “The groom’s friends have killed two cows for the wedding feast. The best pieces are barbecued for the men, and the rest is put into big pots to stew.”

Six-year-old Luis collects eggs and cares for the sheep. He washes his face with water from the big cement basin in the courtyard. Breakfast is cold rice pudding or cornflakes and chocolate milk. He eats tortillas at nearly every meal. His special day is fiesta just before Christmas.

Eight-year-old AA helps to feed a Buddhist monk every morning. She can cook her own eggs.

The book continues sharing similarities and differences between the lives and diets of these children. It is written in a way children can understand and shares relevant and interesting facts. It ends with a recipe from each child and a glossary. The recipes are a milk tart, tomato salsa, Thai fried eggs, chocolate cake, and coconut sweet.

This book would help children connect with other cultures and also appreciate what they have. I wish the recipes were more substantial and not focused so much on sweets.

All proceeds from this book go to Oxfam.

thumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tiny

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Recycled Sundays – Giving Thanks

We’re heading into the over indulgence season. Thanksgiving is the time of overindulgence in poultry and pumpkin. Halloween is the time of overindulgence in terror and treat. Christmas, the ultimate blowout, is the time of overindulgence in everything. Appropriately, these days of decadence are followed by Year’s Day, the time of reparation and resolution.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, those of us with gardens that barely yielded spinach, peas, and lettuce, may feel the holiday has lost its impact. It is difficult to be thankful for the cloudiest, coldness, wettest summer most of us ever remember. It is difficult for me to express gratitude for wormy carrots and radishes, green tomatoes the size of my thumbnail, the smallest yield of zucchini ever (I previously thought it was not humanly possible to consume all the zucchini grown by a single plant), clematis that never climbed, honeysuckle and sweet pea that never attracted a single hummingbird (did anyone actually see one this summer?) and annual flowers that were stunted by spring frost and killed in late bloom by autumn frost.

In an effort to achieve the appropriate holiday attitude, I will consider the many things for which I should be thankful. First, I was able to construct that previous sentence without a dangling participle. Second, I am not a farmer whose survival depends on tomatoes the size and quality of children’s marbles. Third, odds are that next summer won’t be a record-breaking summer miserable weather. Fourth, I can’t remember any other summer where forest fires were next to nonexistent on the news. Also, we had some impressive rainstorms but not a single hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or sinkhole.

I’m thankful I’m alive and have a decent chance to remain that way for respectable time since I live in Canada not in a Third World or a war-torn country.

I can read this newspaper, unlike 5% of Canadians who have trouble dealing printed matter. I can afford this newspaper, unlike 14.3% Canadian families living below poverty level. I can write this column, which means I have a sense of humour (hopefully).

Smile wrinkles are far more attractive than frown wrinkles.

I’m thankful that the Peregrine falcon has been downgraded on the list of endangered Canadian species and that Pee Wee Herman has been downgraded on the list of bizarre species. I’m thankful that I’ve never fallen for Woody Allen who has been downgraded, period.

I’m thankful that Ann Landers, like expensive wine, has improved over the years. Tina Turnner is still steaming windows at age 54. Although John Crowe is Canadian, at least Dan Quayle isn’t.

I’m thankful all the kids are back to school and life is following a rough and wild routine. We no longer feel like golden agers going to bed before the kids now that bedtime is scheduled again. I enjoy our togetherness more when I have some time alone.

Camping season is over and none of us was eaten by a berry starved, compost crazed bear.

I’m grateful for small golden moments of sweetness, such as my little boy’s voice wafting up from the bathroom as he sings a YTV songs that never, never, never, never end. My Third World foster child wrote to say she is married, (we didn’t even send a cow). The new wallpaper actually looks better on the bathroom wall than on the roll except for that giant bubble that didn’t exist before I went to work.

It’s good to have a day that reminds us that I have so much to be thankful for. Ideally, I should make it a regular experience. After all, there’s something precious in every single day.

October 11, 1992

Chronical-Journal/Times-News

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO MY FELLOW CANADIANS!

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages