Recycled Sundays – Where Is That Lego?

Having a normal Canadian son, I’ve had my share of trips to the emergency room. Mercifully, though, they’ve usually turned out to be less serious than at first panic. The case of the missing Lego is a good example.

Set the scene: Mother is shampooing her hair in the shower, little boy comes into the bathroom. Mother responds with a five minute lecture on the ill matters of interrupting, respect for privacy, mother’s deserve some peace and quiet, I can’t hardly hear you with the water running, you’re only supposed to come in here if you’re bleeding or the house is on fire.

“So,” she finishes grandly. “Are you bleeding?”

The child shakes his head no. His eyes look teary.

“Is the house on fire?”

“No,” he whispers,  “I have a Lego stuck in my throat.”

Since he was breathing and had survived my ridiculous lecture without turning blue, I took the time to rinse most of the shampoo out of my hair and get dressed. After all it was 28 below celsius outside.

It seems my son was trying to pry a part two small Legos with his teeth. (yes, we bought the official Lego separating tool. Two in fact. Fortunately, we did not buy the official separating tool finder.)

This was not our first trip to the emergency room (other stories involving bodily fluids which I will probably spare you). Being experienced in waiting area zombie -land, you can imagine my surprise when we were ushered right into an examining room. The doctor actually ignored the man with a missing ear and a teenager receiving oxygen to serve us. I really started to worry.

They poked and prodded. Nothing there. They listened to him breathe, in and out, in and out,. Nothing there. They shone lights in, on and around. Nothing there. They xrayed his stomach and even his nasal passages (has happened). Nothing there. I really, really started to worry.

“Tell me exactly what you did,” said the doctor.

My son describe how, while tryingto bite apart two double pegged lego pieces, one became lodged in his throat. He couldn’t breathe and he couldn’t spit it up. I felt the color drain from my face as I imagine myself blissfully shampooing my hair while he faced a life-and-death struggle with a building block.

“I ran to the stairs,” he continued, “I coughed and and then I could breathe. I told Mommy. I could feel it in my throat before but I can’t now.”

As the hours dragged by, my son felt better and better. The of medical personnel had begun shrugging their shoulders.  My son wanted to go home.

“Well,”  said Dr. Sherlock, “the only place left to look is at home.”

Which we did. On the bottom step, was a block that fit the one described by my son. He must have coughed it up as he was running to me. The combination of panic and the scratched throat convinced him it was still there. We also found a quarter and a missing earring. He kept the quarter. I kept the earring.

He certainly learned his lesson, I thought. He’ll never stick a Lego in his mouth again. I didn’t warn him about Thanksgiving.

At school, he was making a turkey mosaic with buttons and such. He couldn’t do much with the such, but the buttons were just the right size.

“I saw Logan at the principal’s office today,” my daughter informed me.

Whereupon I launched into a lecture on how he was supposed to stop rough-housing and getting into trouble and I couldn’t believe my own son would have to be sent to the principal’s office twice in his life. Talk about not learning from your mistakes.

“But Mom, I had a button up my nose!”

The principal, thankfully, had experience. It seems his own daughter was a nose packer.

“Don’t worry, Mom, the principal got it out,” said my son when I gasped. “It shot right across the room and smacked into his filing cabinet with a ding sound.|”

“What did you do then?” I asked, expecting a tale of his humble gratitude.

He shrugged. “I washed it off and glued it on my turkey.”

 

First published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times News

Sunday, January 12, 1992

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Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure by Danual Berkley. Illustrated by Amariah Rauscher. Book Review.

I knew I’d like this author the moment I read the dedication. Simple words with a powerful, important message.

Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure is a fun family picture book.  It is a gentle adventure of a family of four, mother, father, 7 year old Davy, baby Kai,  and two animated toys, one an alien and  one a teddy bear. It features a family of African descent which I don’t get to see very often. However,  families of all backgrounds will easily relate. What child doesn’t want their family to go for an adventure on a pirate ship?

During their search for gold, the family encounters  a giant fish monster which Davy handles with confidence. When a huge storm comes up and flips the boat over it transforms into a submarine. Of course they find the gold and everyone cheers. On the last page we find that this is a beautifully imaginative story created during bath time.

Rauscher’s illustration style perfectly suits the story. The pictures, which seem to be pencil and watercolor, are gentle and endearing. Every character shines with personality.

Children who love imaginative play and pirate stories will want to hear this book over and over. It is reassuring  with just a touch of suspense. I look forward to more work from this new author. Watch for an upcoming interview with Danual Berkley on this blog.

BUY LINK

Upside Down Babies by Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds. Book Review.

 
The Illustrations in this book are engaging and adorable. The animal’s expressions are priceless.
It begins, “Once when the world jturned upside down”. We see animal babies and human babies spinning through the air wearing concerned expressions. On the next page, piglet lands in a parrot’s nest. On the following, the baby tortoise lands in an otter’s home, the lion cub lands beside a cow, and it continues. The expressions on the faces of the mothers and babies are priceless.
The foster mothers try their best but there are insurmountable odds. The cow cannot provide meat for the lion. The baby elephant can’t jump like the monther kangaroo. This sloth baby cannot keep up with the cheetah.
But then the world goes upside down again and everything returns to as it was. The families are happy to be reunited except for two. My granddaughter and I were disconcerted that the gorilla keeps the human baby and the mother keeps the gorilla baby. There seems to be no reason for this and most children will probably find it funny but there is a undertone of discomfort with the idea. However, children who don’t think too deeply on the subject will just just think it’s silly.
The follow-up to this could be a discussion of new pairings of mothers and babies. Which ones could work and what ones could never be compatible?

My First Best Friend by Derek Washington. Book review.

This picture book is a sweet story of a father’s unwavering love for his child. He expresses his admiration for his son’s determination and his enjoyment of his boy’s growth. Throughout the book he builds the child’s confidence and sense of adventure. They do everything together and their lives are filled with joy and affection.

Then his son takes a major step toward independence. The father confesses that sending his child to school is difficult because his son is missed. When his son says he has a new best friend named Miles, the father reminds him that he will always love him and be his first best friend. I think it is important that when a child has to negotiate the scary and unpredictable world away from home, especially the social quagmire of school, that he knows his father is always there to back him up and support him. However, I would have liked the dad to show more interest in Miles and encourage his son to make friends outside the family.

The book is written in rhyme which holds together fairly well but it isn’t really necessary, especially considering the story’s focus. The illustrations are full color, full-page, cartoon style. There is a color page and a maze the back of the book.

This would make a lovely gift for a new father or father to be.

Recycled Sundays – Achoo!

I know I’m coming down with something when I become accident prone. The first viral assault tends to knock out my coordination, not that there’s much to begin with. But, when I try to lick a stamp and get a papercut, I know it’s a stuffy head is on the way.
I was getting cocky this year, not having missed a day of work even in the midst of cold and flu season. Then, Mr. Virus slapped me a good one. It wasn’t the kind of virus for the victim is knocked off her feet for three or four days and then recovers. It was the peekaboo kind.
There was a slight fever that came and went for no apparent reason. In midsentence my face would suddenly flush in the room would seem a little smaller. I would return to work after day in bed and then find my head drooping to my desktop, an overpriced paperweight. By the end of the day, lifting my briefcase seemed as impossible as restoring Michael Jackson’s reputation.
There were sinus headaches and fever headaches and “someone hit me in the temple with a hammer“ headaches. There were aches and pains, and pains and aches, as though I had run the Triathlon wearing barbed wire. I never knew armpits good hurt so much.
But most of all, there was exhaustion. I easily slept 10 hours a night but every afternoon I napped as well. “I can’t possibly need more sleep,“ I’d tell myself. Then, I would put the milk in the cupboard and the sugar in the fridge or I would change the empty toilet paper roll by throwing away the new role and trying to flush the empty cylinder.  When I wasn’t sleeping, I was resting. The couch is permanently form to my body shape, left side down, space for the remote by my elbow.
This might not have lasted for weeks if I had given in and gone to bed at the start but colds and flu never arrive at convenient times. There were pre-Christmas tasks to be done. There were jobs at work no ask no one else could do. They were commitments to be met. There were people who needed me. The virus and I were on alternate schedules.
To complicate matters, I never get sick alone. Leaving living with a family means someone else always catches it. To be fair, I think my son had it first. It just seem to hit him hardest after I spent my first day in bed. When a child is sick, the sick mother‘s recovery takes second place.
I didn’t read a large novel curled in bed but sat on the couch, a small corner of my son’s blanket on my feet, reading aloud the original saga of Batman with a cough drop in my mouth. Forget watching relaxing ballet or figure skating on television. By the end of the first week I memorize the songs and chants in Power Rangers, “Go! Go Power Rangers! (hopefully out of sight). There was Captain Planet and the Planeteers, “You can be one too! Saving the planet is the thing to do.“ As opposed to what? I’ll never forget Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, “This is the song that never ends. It just goes on and on my friend.“ It gave me a strong craving for not roast mutton.
I learned how to lock on my Camp Caribou baseball cap should I ever be forced to wear one. I learned that Samurai Pizza Cats are smart mouth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rip offs that deliver pizza by being shot from a revolver and fight an interior decorator in their spare time which seems a bit drastic now that chrome and black plastic is no longer popular. I learned that Dennis the Menace was really a sweet little boy.
Instead of cross stitching orwriting letters, I play played canasta, washed sheets, played canasta, washed pajamas, and played canasta. Thank goodness my son received an automatic card shuffler for Christmas. I was getting permanent heart and club works on my hands.
I also spent a great deal of time exclaiming over three dimensional or holographic or brilliantly coloured comic characters. They had names like Daredevil, Dead Pool, Ghostrider, Punisher, Spawn, X-Men, X-force and X-cutioner, some of which I think are actually the good guys. Everyone was armed to the teeth with super weapons and seem to have several problems with saliva control and mucus. This was an eye-opener and let you some rather intense discussions and weeding out of the comic collection. I miss the days of Archie and Garfield.
First published by the Chronicle-Journal?Times-News
Sunday, January 2, 1994

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

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