Wise and Beautiful – If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson. Book Review.

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 Click here to buy If You Plant a Seed

This stunningly beautiful book, with full color photographic-like illustrations, portrays animals realistically yet gives them human personalities.

A rabbit and mouse plant a tomato seed, a carrot seed, and a cabbage seed. They care for the garden until the plants are fully grown. When they harvest their work, five birds show up and stare at them, expecting the rabbit and mouse to share. At this point, you might expect this to become a Little Red Hen clone but it is so much more.

Through the exceptionally expressive illustration, Nelson shows the argument between the creatures which explodes into an all out food fight.

Afterward, mouse thoughtfully examines the cherry tomato and then offers it to the birds. The birds then use their flying ability to spread hundreds of seeds across the field. They help the mouse and rabbit care for the garden until the plants mature. Harvest time provides a wider variety of vegetables in plentiful quantities.

The sparse words are profound and exquisite.

“If you plant a tomato seed, a carrot seed, and a cabbage seed, in no time, with love and care, tomato, carrot, and cabbage plants will grow. If you plant a seed of selfishness, in a very short time, it will grow, and grow and grow into a heap of trouble. But if you plant a seed of kindness, in almost no time at all, the fruits of kindness will grow, and grow, and grow, and they are very, very sweet.”

This remarkable little book uses nature to illustrate our karmic consequences. We may think we are only planting vegetables but, by our actions, we are planting our lives.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Golden Rule by Sherrill S. Cannon. Illustrated by Kalpart.

 

As appears evident from the title of this book, it is the type of text one would use with Sunday school children or perhaps young schoolchildren. The premise seemed interesting. “Robert and Kait decide to look for the Golden ruler that their Mom has told them about, only to find out that she meant rule instead of ruler.” I thought there would be more of a search and more humor involved. This search takes three of the eleven pages. I had anticipated that the search would connect and lead into the value of the Golden rule but the two sections are completely isolated.

While searching, Kait asks Rob if it might be a ruler they can’t see. He thinks for a minute and realizes that it is a rule. Then suddenly he begins to explain it.

“It’s not a school ruler, or measuring tool…

It’s a rule that you live by, to give and to share,

A way to treat others to show that you care.”

From that point on the book explains how to treat others properly. It talks about thinking with head and heart, sharing, dealing with bullies, paying it forward, inclusion, and honesty.

The story is written in rhyme which is always difficult to do well. The rhythm and beat suit this style of book and are mostly consistent. For example:

The rule is treat others the way you would like

For them to treat you, and treat all just alike.

The rule is not something that money can buy.

It’s more of a way to help feel good inside.

And thinking of others is also a part

Of that rule, which means thinking with head and with heart.

The illustrations are reminiscent of old comic books but the characters have large heads and small bodies. The author has worked to be diverse. Of the eight children four are girls, and two are of African descent.

I believe this book is suited to a church or group library. It’s not the kind of book that a child will ask to hear again and again. I was hoping the message would be a little more subtle but these books do have their place.

I was given a free paperback copy of this book to donate to my Little Free Library in exchange for an honest book review.

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Click on the cover to buy a copy.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Halito Gianna by Becky Villareal. Book Review.

Click on the cover to buy the book.

Gianna could easily become one of your children’s favourite book characters. This is a determined, bighearted, independent, and opinionated girl. She is resourceful and clever.

At the beginning of this story, her class is told that they are to dress up as their favourite character from a book for Halloween. Gianna suggests the heroine of The Rough Faced Girl. If you are unfamiliar with this book, I reviewed it on this blog a while back. The protagonist of this story is a First Nations girl with a pure heart, much like Cinderella. It is a character suitable to Gianna who also lives her life with honour.

In the first book in the series, Gianna joined a genealogy club and learned about her mother’s immigration. In this book, she becomes determined to find out what happened to her father, a soldier who went overseas and disappeared.

In the midst of this quest, a new girl arrives at the school; she is from the Choctaw nation, in Broken Bowl, Oklahoma. Gianna takes her under her wing and transforms what could have been a terrifying and terrible day into a fairly good one. The students learn about the origins of the lacrosse and the Trail of Tears many First Nations people were forced to walk.

I don’t want to give away the whole story. It’s touching and inspiring. Because of this little girl, and her kindness to others and determination, she and her mother have a happy ending to this particular part of their lives. I have to admit, this little book put a lump in my throat. Share it with your child. You’ll both love it.

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Review of Gianna the Great

Interview with the Author Becky Villareal

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Cara’s Kindness by Christie Yamaguchi. Illustrated by John Lee. Book Review.

 

This gentle picture book is written by Kristi Yamaguchi, a famous figure skater well known for her modesty and generosity of spirit. So, of course, she would write a picture book that shows kindness is always the best choice.

The characters in this book are anthropomorphized animals. Cara, a cat and a figure skater, is known for her kindness to others. When she sees a dog too timid to go out on the ice, she teaches him to skate.  When he thanks her, she says, “just pass on the kindness.” He does by sharing his lunch with the polar bear. The dog then asks the polar bear to, “just pass on the kindness.” The kindness is passed on to the monkey, then the skunk, and then the mole passes it on to Cara. In a beautifully karmic circle, Cara performs her best skating presentation as a result.

The story ends with the following.

“Cara was so happy! She knew that caring and passing on a small kindness, one good deed at a time, had come full circle right back to her. Caring makes a big difference.”

Yes, the book is a bit preachy but it would be well used by teachers and leaders of children’s groups to explain how even the littlest action causes ripples throughout the world.

The illustrations are suitable full-color cartoonlike characters. The expressions are shown in a simple manner.

I didn’t think my granddaughter would want to hear the story a second time, but she did. She enjoyed the way the kindness played through the circle and back to Cara. She also liked how the characters treated each other.

I was very pleased to win an advanced copy of this book for review.

CLICK ON THE BOOK COVER TO PURCHASE A COPY FROM AMAZON.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Exclusion Hurts Everyone: Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow by Salvatore Barbera. Book Review.

 Click here to buy Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow

This is a story about the acceptance of differences similar to Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches but more apparent. When Mary Elizabeth arrives at a farm in Ohio, the other cows reject her because she doesn’t have spots. During the night she creates her own spots with mud. The next day the other cows cheer and then spend the day playing with her. That night, she washes off the spots. The other cows don’t know what to think.

“Here’s the thing.” said Mary Elizabeth. “You all liked me with spots. We had fun. We frolicked. Played poker. And not once did you think about me having spots.” Anna Belle realized that Mary Elizabeth was right. Spots don’t make a cow.

The cows, in support and shame for their previous behavior, call a Spotless Cow Day where they whiteout all their own spots. Then all the cows dance and sing and play forever. (Obviously, it isn’t forever. Don’t mention the farmer’s gruesome plans for them.)

The illustrations, words and style suits a very young child so I would have used white paint instead of whiteout but that is being picky. There are also a few humorous asides but it is apparent that these are for the parents’ benefit. These are quite clever.

Well, Anna Belle and the other Cows were horrified. (Not mad, you had to be very careful about mad.)

There is the occasional punctuation error, a missing period here, a missing quotation mark there. But, the text flows smoothly with just enough on each page to maintain a child’s interest.

The illustrations, unfortunately, do not match the quality of the writing. The cows are two-legged oddities. The background, which was done by Sheri H. Barbara, is composed of computer graphics stamps. These aren’t too bad but they only draw attention to the awkward cows. However, some readers may like their quirkiness.

This is a picture book worth sharing with your child. It is funny, endearing, and ethical.

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The author was interviewed on this blog on January 18, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Kindness Comes Back: Pegasus, A Dragon’s Tale by Gina LoBiondo. Illustrated by Stephanie Zuppo. Book Review.

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A dragon’s egg is found by two royal bears who hatch it and raise the baby dragon until he is old enough to leave on his own. Years later, when the kingdom is under attack and the two bears have been taken prisoner, the dragon, now fully grown, appears. At first he doesn’t recognize the little bears, but they prod his memory until he frees them. He scatters the enemy and carries the bears home. He remains in the kingdom as their guardian against future threats.

Although the plot is fairly common, the book has lovely messages such as kindness comes back to us in unexpected ways. United friends can stand against the strongest bullies. Wild animals should be released into the wild to choose their own way.

When initially releasing the dragon, the King says, “We don’t know how big he’ll get and besides, he’ll be better off in his own. Perhaps he will find another of his own kind and have a family.” I was expecting him to return with the family but there is no indication as to what happened to him in his absent years. It felt a little sad to have him spending the rest of his days as the only dragon in the kingdom.

The formatting is inconsistent. Some paragraphs are indented in some are not. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for the choices.

The illustrations by Stephanie Zuppo appeared to be computer graphics which can be beautiful but, in this instance, seem blurred and even muddy at times. The characters of the three Bears and the dragon are drawn well. The same facial image of Princess Kameela and Prince Dayshawn are used on several pages. On page 11, for example, the bears are frowning with their eyes closed similarly to the picture on pages 8, 9 and 13. Several other pages have identical expressions of an O shaped mouth. Readers need more facial detail and expression in a children’s picture book. There is also a problem with proportion as the dragon’s size seems to change on different pages.

This story is 25 pages long with about 40 to 50 words per page. It would suit a child whose reading level is between picture books and beginning chapter books.

The author, Gian LoBiondo, will be interviewed on this blog on April 5, 2017.

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A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Inspiring Courage, Love, and Determination – Making Manna by Eric Lotke. Book Review.

Click here to buy Making Manna This is now the correct link. The price is $15.00 paperback.

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I thought I would read a chapter of Making Manna before sleeping but thirteen chapters later I was reluctant to close the book. It was only my aching eyes that made me stop. Eric Lotke is a master writer of character and situation. Not only do you care for these people, but you cringe and curse and cheer as they struggle through overwhelming events. This book is based on Lotke’s own experiences with the justice system and people struggling to survive in a cold, unfair, and prejudiced environment.

Making Manna opens with the story of Libby, a 14-year-old victim of sexual abuse by her father. It begins with the birth of her incestuously conceived baby. This is not the first time in the novel you will feel angry and frustrated at contemptuous behavior. But, equally throughout the book, you will be amazed and gladdened at the extreme kindness of strangers and mere acquaintances. Libby is but a child when she is forced out into the world with a newborn in her hands. We may not make the same choices as this fresh from the farm teenager but we cannot help but be in awe of her motherly love and determination. The story of her son, Angel, is bittersweet as well.

No one is an island, and so Libby finds support and love with another single mother, Sheila, and her daughter, Monet. However, things become frightening when the police virtually destroy their apartment in search of drugs. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys, just like in real life. The bonds these friends form are unbreakable and through this loyalty, hope survives.

Lotke writes in such a fashion that the reader loses herself in the story. She is no longer engaging with print on paper but living alongside real, admirable, and compelling characters. This is a page turner in a different sense. Yes there is enormous suspense as to how these people are going to survive in the face of such cruel and unwarranted adversity. But more than that, we want them to succeed. We want them to be happy. We want Angel to get the girl.

I cannot recommend this amazing story strongly enough.

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Eric Lotke will be interviewed on this blog April 12, 2017.

A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Social Skill Wrapped in Hilarity: Bossy Flossy written and illustrated by Paulette Bogan. Book Review.

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Click here to buy Bossy Flossy

It is such a great feeling when I find a picture book that both my granddaughter and I enjoy. Bossy Flossy had turned us into Paulette Bogan fans by the third page.

Flossy butts heads with everyone, including her toys. The book begins with Flossy standing in the middle of her bedroom telling all her toys what to do. With one hand on her hip and the other pointing, she demands, “Sit up straight. Look at me. Listen to me. Pay attention. Do what I tell you.” She is bossy to her cat, her little brother, and even her mother.

Although flossy is a simple, cartoonish character, her big wild red hair, her dramatic gestures, and her expressive face make her a real person and a force to be reckoned with.

Flossy does not understand that she is being bossy. When she is sent to her room, she tells herself, “I’m not bossy. Mom is bossy. She always tells me what to do. She never listens to me. I’m just trying to tell her something.” We realize that Flossy doesn’t see herself the way others do. As well, we aren’t sure about her interpretation of her mother’s behavior. Maybe Mom is bossy. At times, it seems as though Flossie is trying to be helpful but is unaware of the effect her behavior has on others. She tells a classmate how to paint and then takes the press and draw the line on her artwork. She orders another classmate to wear a hat she has chosen to complete his dress-up costume.

When a new boy, Edward, joins her class, Flossy meets her match in the overbearing department. Frustrated, Flossie challenges Edward but he doesn’t back down. The argument escalates until they are both sent to timeout. There, they agreed to stop bossing others. They both improve and become great friends.

Although it might sound like a didactic book, it really isn’t. Bogan disarms us completely with humor and charm. Children might identify with Flossy’s problem but will find her behavior intriguing and silly. If you have an overly dominant child, I would avoid discussing bossiness immediately after reading this. It is such a delightful book, you wouldn’t want to spoil it. After reading it a couple of times, you might want to bring up the difference between being bossy and being helpful, taking turns, listening to others, and so on. In my home, “Bossy Flossy” has become a code that can make either my granddaughter or myself stop and think about how our words sound to the other person. Even if you don’t have a bossy member in your family, this book can be just pure fun to read.

The illustrations are interesting in that they appear to be drawn individually, cut out and arranged on the page. This could be a fun art activity to do with your child. You can both draw and cut out several different characters and then arrange them into different story scenes.

Highly recommended both for fun and value.

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An interview with the author, Paulette Bogan, will be posted on this blog, March 8, 2017.

A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Is Different Bad? Frog Has No Fur (La Rana No Tiene Pelo) by S. J. Bushue and Deb McQueen. Book Review.

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 Click here to buy “Frog Has No Fur”: “La Rana No Tiene Pelo”

(So Big & Little Bit Adventures)

This is a bilingual picture book. Unfortunately, I cannot read Spanish so I am only reviewing the English part.

So Big, a mammal, and Little Bit, a frog are friends even though they are not alike. The text explains their differences: brown and green, fur and no fur, mammal and amphibian, lives on land and lives on land and water, active during the day and active during the night, a heart with four chambers and a heart with three chambers, ears and only eardrums, focusing eyes and whole eye turning, first to walk on land and walking on land 100 million years later.

It ends with:

We do not have to be the same. We are friends… Just because we like each other.

The fictional message is about acceptance of differences but, as the child reads, an enormous amount of factual detail is presented. (I didn’t even know about the heart chambers.) There could be two types of follow-up discussions to this book. One could be about relationships and differences. Two could be about the animal kingdom and classification. Of course, the parent should try to draw out the fact that the child is also a mammal and not an amphibian.

The illustrations are big, black outlined, colorful, and simple. They have a happy, fun quality.

If you go to this page on The Little Fig website, you will find a coloring page you can download, a link to the accompanying song on YouTube, and the YouTube link to the book being read aloud in Spanish.

This is a wonderful product that addresses a need in picture books. Check out their other bi-lingual books while you’re there.

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A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

S.J. Bushue was interviewed on this blog on November 30, 2016.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

New Release – Then the Tooth Fairy Won’t Come

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Click here to buy “Then the Tooth Fairy Won’t Come”

Timo wants to pull Dion’s loose tooth but his methods are pretty strange. Dion won’t let him touch it. All he can think of is how Timo’s crazy ideas will result in a lost tooth. Then the tooth fairy won’t come. Should Dion figure out how to get his tooth safely out or just let it be?

A funny, imaginative story with a subtle message of how worrying makes our fears grow.

Listen to the author read part of it on youtube