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

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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

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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

 

 

 

 

The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

You may misinterpret the title of this wonderful picture book. I thought it had to do with intelligence but it actually means stylish or well-dressed. I see others made the same mistake since the title has been changed to “Spiffiest.”

George is a giant who wears the same pair of old brown sandals in the same old patched up gown. We see from the illustrations that the townsfolk are quite blasé about George and other giants. The story begins with George deciding to spruce up. He buys “a smart shirt, a smart belt, a smart pair of trousers, a smart stripy tie, some smart socks with diamonds up the sides, and a pair of smart shiny shoes.” He declares that he is now the smartest giant in town. He leaves his old clothes behind and heads for home.

Here the story unfolds of George’s compassionate heart. He gives a giraffe his necktie to keep his long cold neck warm. As he goes on his way, George sings a happy song about giving away his tie but still being the smartest giant in town. George gives his shirt away to a goat who needs a new sail for his boat. He gives a shoe to a homeless mouse family. He gives a sock to a fox that needs a sleeping bag. He puts his belt across the bog to help the dog travel safely. But then, as George hops, his pants fall down. In the end he returns back to town and puts on his old clothes. All the creatures he helped get together and make a gold paper crown and a thank you card that lists all the generous acts and ends with “the kindest giant in town.”

What a wonderful book to lead into discussion of generosity, compassion, and sharing. This would be a great book to motivate children to participate in charitable events and to give up something so that others might have the necessities of life. It also promotes minimalism and non-attachment.

The illustrations are nicely done. The text is threaded throughout the variety of pictures. Some are double spreads, some full-page, and some two or three small illustrations on the page. They are bright, detailed, and colourful. The paper is glossy and good quality which makes the illustrations pop. Highly recommended.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Other great books by Julia Donaldson. Click on the covers for more information or to purchase the books.

Thank You Bear by Greg Foley. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Thank You Bear Board Book

Here’s a lovely little book to read any time but it would suit Thanksgiving Day beautifully. Greg Foley has written and illustrated a charming and meaningful picture book. The layout is simple, text on the left page and an illustration on the right. The pictures are line drawings with little and muted color. This simplicity helps to portray the character of Bear, a sensitive, well-meaning, and unsure little guy.

Bear finds a little box and says, “Why, it’s the greatest thing ever! Mouse will love this.” On the way to find mouse he shows the gift to Monkey, Owl , Fox, Elephant, Squirrel, and Bunny. Each one deflates bears confidence and enthusiasm. By the time Little bear reaches mouse his sense of joy and excitement has been diminished. But, Mouse crawls inside and says, “It’s the greatest thing ever! Thank you, Bear.”

There are so many important messages in this uncomplicated, sweet story. A gift from the heart, given with understanding, is the best gift of all. We shouldn’t let others destroy our enthusiasm but should trust in our own understanding of a relationship. Gratitude is the best gift given in return. And friendship, respect, confidence, and more. This is the kind of book you can read over and over and find something new to discuss each time.

A timeless book that both parents and children will love.

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If you are looking for more books on gratitude, check out Rayne Shines. You can listen to the author read the book here. https://youtu.be/z_liqNXy07k

41jrlrh2b95l-_sx260_Click here to buy Rayne Shines

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Rocky the Cat Who Barks by Joanna Joe Napoli and Marie Kane. Illustrated by Tamara Petrosino. Book Review.

 

This is a simple picture book story for early readers that is completely believable. Rocky is a dog, possibly a beagle, who lives with an elderly lady. One day she has to move into an apartment building with her son. This part I didn’t understand because it said no dogs were allowed. But Rocky moved in with the family of two wild children and five cats.

The cats were hilarious. Misha, the big mean mother looks like she could fight a pitbull. Cappuccino has fur like a lamb, Crystal has long hair like a fashion model, Latte is lean with blue eyes, and Cally is the only one smaller than Rocky. When Rocky has the audacity to bark at the cats, they surround him, unsheathe their claws, arch their backs and hiss. From that point on, the cats bully the dog mercilessly.

The two children are worse than the cats. They rollerskate around the house, knock over furniture, squirt water guns, and swing on the curtains. The cats ignore them but the dog is terrified until, one day, things turn around. The naughty children decide to dress two of the cats up in doll clothes. Rocky and the other three cats are terrified. But when the children try to stuff the two cats into their backpacks, Rocky comes to their rescue barking louder than he ever had. The children’s mother intervenes and the cats are rescued. From that point on, Rocky is welcomed as part of the group. He is treated like a cat, hence the title of the book “Rocky the Cat Who Barks.”

The pictures are hilarious and if you have ever owned cats or seen them around the smaller dog intruding on their territory, you know they are a force to be reckoned with. There are one or two framed pictures on each  page with words beside her below. The style is cartoonish.

This is a fun, funny book especially if you love cats.

Some interesting discussions should arise from reading this book. The children, referred to as monsters, mistreat the pets. At the beginning, Rocky expects to be the boss of the home and is quickly informed of his mistake. When he comes to the aid of his new family, it is then that he is accepted. A good reminded that we need to give before we receive.

Click on the book covers for more information or to purchase the book.

 

  

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Cat Who Loved to Swim by LeAnne Miller. Illustrated by Linda Manthey. Book Review.

The Cat Who Loved to Swim features a feline, Casper, who is being mocked by his friends for swimming. They tell him that cats don’t behave like that. Then, they each realize they are unique in some way. The goat likes gymnastics. The donkey sings. The monkey plays violin. Casper convinces them to compete in the Big Swimming Show even though they can’t swim. He pulls them on a raft while they display their special talents. The judges award them “most unique”. Casper ends with, “It’s fun and OK when you go your own way!”

This is a great message. Accept your friends as they are. Accept and be proud of your own unique skills.

Unfortunately, the book was written in rhyme, a challenge for any writer. The rhythm is unsteady, the rhyming pattern changes throughout, and some unusual words are used to fit the rhyming, such as “faux-pas”. This makes the book difficult to read aloud smoothly and with expression. Subsequently, it is difficult to maintain a child’s interest.

If you choose to write in rhyme, which is seldom needed, try reading it aloud and tapping to the beat. Then give it to someone who has never seen the book before and ask them to do the same. If either of you are stumbling, the rhyming isn’t working.

The illustrations are noteworthy. I think they are done with computer graphics but they have the feel of cut and paste shapes. With the simplest of pictures, Linda Manthey conveys wonderful charm and emotion.

This book has so much potential but does not truly fulfill it because of the difficulties of writing in rhyme. The story is cute and worthwhile, however. It’s worth taking a look.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Milton the Christmas Moose by Steve and Jean Goodwin. Illustrated by Loanna Philippou. Book Review.

This book was written to teach children the importance of kindness, inclusion, forgiveness, and the spirit of Christmas. Milton has one antler smaller than the other and one leg shorter than the other. Like Rudolph, he is teased and excluded by his species. However he makes friends with all the other animals, helps them as much as possible, and encourages them to help each other. Because of this, Rudolph comes to visit him and brings him to see Santa. Santa grants him a wish. Milton wishes to be green with red antlers to remind people to keep Christmas in their hearts 365 days a year. This triggers a realization in the other moose who treat him differently from then on.
This book is obviously written for very young children, those who still believe in Santa and Rudolph. However it is a little long and challenging for children of this age. Parents could read it to them and explain some of the words and concepts.
Throughout the story we see that small kindnesses make a big difference in animal’s lives. This book lends itself well to discussions on how children can help others and make the world a better place through their small achievements.
I thought the new colour choice of red and green was a little weak as a catalyst for change by the other moose. Rudolph is accepted by the other reindeer because of his monumental achievement of saving Christmas and being exactly what Santa needed when the others were unable to help him. I felt this story needed a little more umph for the turning point. I was hoping for something new but it seem to be basically an echo of the Rudolph story.
The illustrations are cute, wonky watercolors. They are colourful and cheerful, however the illustration of Santa Claus was a little jarring and out of place.
At the end of the book it tells the reader to check out the Christmas song on a website. When you go there, this song is for purchase only and I couldn’t figure out a way to hear any of it.
A sweet, heart-warming book that encourages good values but doesn’t have the impact of Rudolph.

Walk a Mile in the Troll’s Shoes – The Three Billy Goats Fluff by Rachel Mortimer. Illustrated by Liz Pichon. Book Review.

Click here to buy The Three Billy Goats Fluff

I am so impressed that authors continue to come up with new takes on old stories. Some of them are poorly done; this one isn’t one of those. It begins with a double spread picture of a troll holding his pillow on top of his head, eyes rolled up and mouth a squiggle, as the three Billy Goats Gruff trip-trap loudly over the bridge. Instantly we see that in this story the troll is suffering and we feel sympathy for him. This book is probably going to be told from his point of view.

When we turn the page, we see the poor troll reading an old newspaper advertisement for his new home under the bridge. Clearly he has been misled by the words “troll paradise”. The noise is driving him to distraction.

We learn that the three Billy Goats Fluff live next to the bridge and cross it frequently. The green grass on the other side makes their fleeces extra fluffy which is important for Mother Goat’s knitting business. But this means nothing to the troll who finally snaps and threatens to eat them all if they don’t stop tromping over his bridge.

Here the book takes a wonderful turn. Mother Goat listens to her three Billy Goats and feels compassion for the poor troll identifying with his lack of sleep. She leaves him a note that says if he can still hear them after accepting a gift, he can eat them. Otherwise he must stop being grumpy and start being nice. When each of the goats across the bridge they wear thick, hand-knitted booties which cushion their steps. The troll hears nothing. He opens the gift from Mother Goat and finds earmuffs and a special blanket. Included is also an apology note. That night the troll sleeps soundly.

What a wonderful way to teach children to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes (or knitted booties). Instead of responding with anger or defensiveness, Mother Goat does her best to make life better for the troll.

The illustrations are as cute as Mother Goat’s booties. The troll is unusual, but not terrifying.

Even the youngest child will enjoy this story and its peaceful, happy ending.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages