The Frog Princess

Why does the frog want the princess to share her dinner and let her sleep over? Maybe she just wants a friend. Can a frog and a princess become BFFs?

Advertisements

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Brand New Kid by Katie Couric. Illustrated by Markorie Priceman. Book Review.

There are a lot of books written about bullying and exclusion. This one points out that there really is no rational reason for targeting a child. The child, Laszlo, being bullied was new to the town. “His hair was so blonde, it looked almost white. It stuck out all over, it didn’t look right. His lips were bright pink, his eyes very blue. He looked at his feet and he fidgeted too.… His voice booming so loud.” The children decided immediately that he was weird and began to bully him. As a previous teacher, I was shocked that the teacher was so oblivious to what was going on and did not intervene. It is obvious when they pick teams that he is being left out. The bullying even goes as far as tripping him in the lunch room. This goes on for several weeks. I do know that bullies can be sneaky and clever and pull the wool over their parents and teacher’s eyes, but this seemed pretty prevalent and apparent. I expected the teacher to at least attempt to address the situation. I do understand, though, the children’s books need to be focused on children solving the problem and not adults.

One of the students who has been bullying, discovers Laszlo’s mother crying and learns she is thinking of pulling her son from the school. She suddenly has a moment of conscience and invites Lazlo to play. They have loads of fun and Ellie meets his mother who provides them with warm cookies. When the kids at school question her behavior, she explains that he isn’t that different and shares some of her experience. She ends with, “he may look slightly strange, have an accent and stuff, but if you knew him, you’d like him, it wouldn’t be tough.” Suddenly the children switch to being friendly and inclusive.

It feels like too easy of a solution. Ellie, and the other children, would know full well that Laszlo and his family would be very upset about his treatment. The children look and sound like Junior grade students (4 – 6) certainly old enough to understand exactly what they’re doing and the consequences. I thought perhaps this was an older book since public schools put in a great deal of effort to encourage inclusive this and clamp down on bullying. It seemed in this story that the children controlled the school.

It’s an admirable topic and a worthwhile book but just seems a little out of date. (Copyright 2000) I do believe, however, that this topic needs to be visited regularly every year and we must continue to be vigilant about protecting the bullied and educating bullies. Parents need to be vigilant about this as well.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A Fairy AND a Princess – The Very Fairy Princess: A Spooky, Sparkly Halloween by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton. Illustrated by Christine Davenier. Book Review.

 Click here to buy The Very Fairy Princess: A Spooky, Sparkly Halloween

This book is one in a collection of Very Fairy Princess books written by Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. Yes, I already reviewed one of her books, Dumpy to the Rescue, but it was so awful I thought I’d give her another chance.

In this book, she has taken two things that little girls love, fairies and princesses, merged them together and built a business of picture books, music, a television series, and even a writing course for authors. Her books are advertised as a #1 New York Times Best-selling Series. When scanning the list of books, you immediately realized that they are all written to help children in socially difficult situations such as the end of the school year, losing the class pet, and not being chosen to sing the solo.

In this particular story, Gerry, who is a princess with actual fairy wings, uses a white sheet to dress as an angel for Halloween. When her best friend, Delilah, wears a dentist uniform that becomes covered in ketchup, Gerry uses her ingenuity and generosity to save the day. She transforms her sheet into a tooth costume for her friend. Together they morph Gerry into the tooth fairy. The girls win a big box of chocolates for creative teamwork. I love the message that friendship and compassion are more important than looking good.

If the other books are like this one, I think they would be enjoyed by little girls and beneficial to their social development. The story was suspenseful; my granddaughter was quite concerned when Delilah’s costume was ruined just before the parade. The text is longer and the vocabulary is a bit more advanced than I would have expected for the target audience, but with adult assistance shouldn’t be a problem.

The pictures are created with soft pastels with a lot of pink and purple. The one thing I noticed was that in the classroom scenes I could only find one child of color. Perhaps Christine Davenier could be more conscious of diversity in her illustrations.

I will be reviewing other books written by celebrities in January. It will be interesting to see if celebrity authors develop a series of books like Julie Andrews or just a one-shot affair and if they have a message they want to spread.

By the way, this was about as “spooky” as a week old kitten.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages