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!

When Grandma Climbed the Magic Ladder by Priya Narayanan. Book Review.

 

This is a unusual story about what happens after death. When a little boy named Shashi’s  grandmother dies, we follow her journey up the magic ladder into the sky to become a star with herpreviously deceased husband. Although the story begins with tears and grieving, once we switch to the Grandma’s point of view it is sweet, peaceful and reassuring.

Grandma is an amazing woman, kind, courageous, appreciative, and positive, so much so that as she journeys, all who encounter want her to stay. But even though the journey is long and somewhat arduous she continues to climb the ladder for three days to reach her husband and become a star. The reader cheers Grandmother on as she travels believing in her success and anxious to see Grandma’s dream to become a star a reality.

There were two points in the story that brought tears to my eyes. One was when the little boy was told that his grandmother would have to journey for three days on the magic ladder.

“Wouldn’t grandma feel hungry by the time she reached the sky? So, when no one was looking, he hid three of his favorite cream-filled cookies amongst the pleats of her sari.”

Those cookies soaked in love gave the grandmother so much endurance as she climbed that she did not need the food offered to her by the monkey, the cloud, or the moon.

The second moment was when the grandmother was reunited with the grandfather.

“As Grandma put her arms around Grandpa and hugged him tight, a blinding flash tore through the night sky. Exactly at the place in the sky where there had been only a lone star all these years, there was suddenly two.

If you have definite beliefs as to what happens after death, this would still be a good book to share with your child to explain that different religions and cultures have different beliefs. If you are unsure or uncommitted as to what happens after death, this book will encourage some interesting discussions.

Suitable to be read with parents for children ages 4 to 10.

CLICK ON THE COVER FOR MORE INFO OR TO BUY THE BOOK

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

 

 

A Different Generation – Listen to the Wisest of All by Rita Blockman and Kimberly Morin. Photography by Charles Mercer. Book Review.

Listen to the Wisest of All is a collection of interviews with men and women aged 88 to 104 years old.

One thing that impressed me was the positive attitude many of the interviewees had toward their childhood even if they were raised in difficult circumstances, even poverty. They were proud of their own contributions to their families sustainability. They enjoyed simple things and appreciated what they had. Family, religion, and country were the three predominantly important influences on them. Gathering wealth, collecting expensive items, or garnering attention or a following was not of interest. Most importantly was contributing and acquiring independence and skill. These values are what a bold this generation to survive a world war and the Great Depression.

 Click on the cover to buy a copy.

There were sweet stories of romance, some with happy endings, some with un-requited love.

The best part of the book was when we were reading the direct quotes. Biography is so much better when told directly from the source. However, the authors have done a wonderful job of helping the reader connect to the 14 people featured in this little book. Their observations, emotional responses, and interpretations have made this more than a factual account of events.

Each interviewee was asked what advice he would share with the younger generation. Many recommended showing respect for everyone. Pay attention to the little things. Don’t judge others. Health and contribute when you can, no matter how old you are.

Recurring themes were the concern over what seems to be eroded values in society. Many of the elderly frowned on overly revealing clothing, lack of personal communication between people, and undisciplined children.

The loss of innocence at such a young age due to the media was mentioned more than once. I share this concern. Childhood has shrunk to the blink of an eye. This is all the more apparent when listening to elders’ stories about the simple fun they had as children.

A book like this makes me wonder what kind of stories will be collected for my generation. It would be wonderful if this could be repeated every 20 years. What a fascinating chronology that would be.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

All Fall Down: The Landslide Diary of Abby Roberts – Frank, District of Alberta, 1902 by Jean Little. Book Review.

Jean Little is a national treasure. Her body of work is phenomenal and this is up there with the best of them. You don’t have to be Canadian to enjoy this book, or the series, which is told in diary format.

The story of the landslide that buried part of the town in the coal mining area of Alberta, Canada, is told through the eyes of a young girl, Abby. Her father has recently died and her family has moved to Frank to live with relatives who run a hotel. The family dynamics are as complex and intriguing as real life drama. Abby, is a sensitive and loving child, the only one of her siblings willing to care for her Down Syndrome brother. The story is told through her diary entries.

This moment in Canadian history is relatively unknown by people living outside of Western Canada. The book is based on the true events and the deaths and near misses resulting from the landslide are taken from actual historical incidents. There are black and white photographs at the back of the book which show the size and extent of the mountain’s partial collapse. An explanation is given in the afterword as to the possible causes of the enormous landslide.

This book is both an engaging story of a family around the turn of the century and a stunning example of the power of nature. Abby, and her family, are based on a number of people Jean Little researched. Although it is written for tween readers, anyone from 9 to 90 will be intrigued by the story and touched by the impact of this tragedy on the community and individuals.

This book is part of the Dear Canada series which features a number of remarkable books. Some speak of heroism and sacrifice while some examine our most shameful moments.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Kip and Kamuela’s Adventures in Rome by Jonah Christian Hall. Book Review.

Since there is only one name on this book, I assume the illustrations and text are both written by Jonah Christian Hall. The illustrations in this book are lively, professional, and comprehensive. I think they are ink and watercolor. Hall is a talented and amusing artist. He uses point of view and placement to create varied and interesting illustrations. His pictures are often highly dynamic.

The main characters are a brother and sister with naturally blue hair. . The color blue appears in other places, building the reader’s curiosity. Several reasons for this anomaly are proposed but we are never told the actual reason.

The Kingsley family is rich and famous, both parents being actors in demand.

We follow the children, who are being supervised by their grandmother, as they follow their parents being filmed on location in Italy. Step-by-step, we learn about the strategies needed to avoid fans, how to set up and film a movie, and the perks of visiting Rome. The story becomes a discovery of the delights of Italy. The illustrations of this great city are phenomenal.

On page 18 of 25, the story picks up when the children try to rescue a cat and cause a calamity in the market. It culminates in a spectacular crash on the film set. The gelato man, whose business they have disrupted, is given the role of Julius Caesar. At the end the children sit and watch the film while they eat ice cream.

One technical problem is that after a few pages, the verb tense changes from present to pass. It jumps back and forth throughout the book, sometimes switching in the same paragraph.

It is important to set up the main theme, plot and characters on the first page of the picture book. I thought this was going to be a book about why the children had blue hair. The blue hair had nothing to do with the story of exploring Rome and causing a disruption. I waited to see what role the hair color would play in their adventure but we did not return to the subject.

If you are planning on visiting Rome with your children this is a great book to read before you go.

Click on the cover to buy the book.

I was given an ebook copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Munro vs. the Coyote by Darren Groth. Book Review.

 

Munro Maddux has a serious problem. Since his little sister died, his inner voice has taken control of his life. He calls it the coyote since it tricks and torments him relentlessly. It undermines his confidence, shames him, and encourages him to make psychologically and socially unhealthy choices. Munro decides he needs a dramatic change in his familial and social landscape in order to subdue the coyote. So, he leaves Vancouver, Canada for a six month exchange student arrangement with a family in Australia.

His host family and his high school are not informed of Munro’s struggle with anger, guilt, and depression but it soon becomes apparent that something is wrong. Fortunately for Monro he has a supportive and compassionate host family, new friends, and school administration. But, it is his volunteer work with the inhabitants of “Fair Go Community Village” that get past his barriers and enable him to face the truth about the coyote.

At times, I felt frustrated by Monro’s behaviour. So many people were available to support and cheer-on his recovery that his self-sabotage was confusing until the true version of his sister’s death was revealed.

Although Monro is not as loveable as Justine and Perry, Groth’s major characters in Are You Seeing Me?, and the voice of the coyote tends to distance the reader at times, I was anxious to see how Monro would rid himself of the negative inner voice. I did feel that he bordered on schizophrenia and should have been under the direct care of a psychiatrist while in Australia. His treatment seemed a bit casual for someone with borderline hallucinations.

The characters from Far Go Community Village stole the show. Monro’s two families and friends were nice but these people were rich, unique, insightful, and sometimes hilarious.

The loss of a sibling impacts differently on people. Not only due to the nature of the relationship but also because of the circumstances of the death. Groth examines this with sensitivity and a light touch. Well recommended.

I was given an advanced ebook copy to review.

Click here or on the cover for more info on Munro vs. the Coyote (purchase link)

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Unforeseen Consequences – Erasable by Linda Yiannakis. Book Review.

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If you read yesterday’s interview with Linda Yiannakis, you have already realised that Erasable is an intriguing novel for children.

The protagonist, nine-year-old Ellie, discovers something in her grandmother’s attic that promises to solve all her problems. But like the genie who grants three wishes, one never knows where magic will lead. Ellie has little understanding of the karmic results of her decisions. What begins as little improvements cascades into major life changes, not all positive.

I love how this book explains that one small action can have huge impacts on numerous people. It is impossible to tell what “erasing” something or someone from her life will cause. No one is immune to the results, not even Ellie.

The characters are likable. The family dynamics are realistic without being syrupy. The kids are kids, thoughtless and impulsive one minute, wonderful the next.

Yiannakis writes like a professional. The reader loses herself in the book. The prose is tight, the plot is trim, the dialogue is natural, and everything flows the way it should. It’s hard to believe this is Linda’s first book.

Although this book is targeted towards 9, 10 and 11-year-olds, it can be enjoyed by readers outside that age range. It would be a great book for a parent and child to read and discuss.

The book is not illustrated, per se, but there are little pen sketches dotted throughout. These are tiny, almost thumbnails, at the top of the chapter. I wondered why they weren’t larger.

All in all, this is an interesting, enjoyable, and thought-provoking read.

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Click on this link to buy Erasable