Helping Out a Friend – The Secret Path by Nancy Gee. Illustrated by Kathleen Newman. Book Review.

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Click here to buy The Secret Path

This picture book is a sequel to The Secret Drawer which was reviewed on this blog February 27, 2017.

As the story unfolds, we discover that not only the flying squirrels but all the creatures of the forest have become friends with Maddie, the lady with the sock drawer, and Kitty. They decide to go down a path to Maddie’s house and give her the good news. What good news is still to unfold.

Instead of taking their usual path, they take a shortcut. Sal, one of the flying squirrels falls down into a hole and is trapped by a rock on her foot. It starts to rain and Sal is in danger of drowning. Each animal tries to get to her but is unsuccessful. Sal tells them to get Kitty. The animals race to Maddie’s house and, with gestures, convince the lady and cat to follow them. Turtle has placed himself over the hole to redirect the water but Sal is almost completely submerged. Kitty pulls her from the hole, Maddie wraps her up in a pink fluffy slipper, and the next day we learn the important news. Sal and Al have a litter of kits.

The illustrations have improved. The animals look more like woodland creatures and less like stuffed toys that have gone through the laundry without an anti-static sheet.

Although simple, this is a good story for children. Unfortunately, the author has chosen to write in rhyme again. Although it has improved somewhat, the beat seems a little awkward. There are twisted sentences such as, ” From a distance your cries we hear,/And you’re in trouble, we do fear.” In order to make the rhyme work, the author also uses some unfamiliar vocabulary for children. “Go find Kitty, he’ll fix my plight.” Although this is improved over her last book, I still contend that the story could be much better told without rhyme. It interferes with the pace and emotional connection to the story. It repeatedly pulls the reader out of the narrative. I would be interested in seeing this author tackle a picture book without rhyme. I think her storytelling skill would then come to the forefront.

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March 27, 2017 Review of the Secret Drawer on this blog.

March 29, 2017 Flying Squirrel Secrets: Author Nancy Gee Three Random Questions Interview on this blog.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

When Is It OK for a Child to Paint a Wall? – Author Paulette Bogan – Three Random Questions Interview

Paulette Bogen has had her illustrations published in The New York Times, Ladies Home Journal, Business Week, Scholastic Magazines, Publishers Weekly, United Features Syndicate, and Newsday. She now writes and illustrates picture books. One of the books she illustrated, Chicks and Salsa, is featured on the PBS Children’s Show, Between the Lions!

Link to Between the Lion reading of Chicks and Salsa:

http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/rtttec13.ela.fdn.chicksalsa/chicks-and-salsa/

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Bonnie Ferrante: Hi Paulette. Welcome to my blog. I love the story of your first “artistic experience”. Would you share it with us now?

Paulette Bogan: We had the chicken pox, all four of us! My mother called us into the playroom and handed each of us a paintbrush and said, “Get started! This wall is boring.” And so we spent all afternoon (and the next few days) painting a mural on the playroom wall.

Ferrante: That’s one amazing mother.

You have 15 books listed on Goodreads. Do you write/illustrate full-time? How many hours a day to put into your work?

Bogan: I am a full time author and illustrator. I am useless in the morning as far as drawing, or writing, or even thinking clearly! Mornings are for exercise, chores, or my favorite – sleeping in.

Bogan: After noon I am much more creative and productive. I will spend the afternoon in my studio drawing, writing, or procrastinating. (Sometimes my best ideas come when I am procrastinating.)

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Ferrante: How did you go from illustrating to both illustrating and writing your own picture books?

Bogan: I didn’t start writing professionally until I was in my thirties! I went to Parsons School of design and majored in illustration. My mother always told me I should write and illustrate children’s books. Of course I didn’t listen! I graduated art school and went on to do political illustration and editorial illustration for quite a few years.

I finally listened to my mother when I was pregnant with my first child. After a lot of hard work and many rejections, Nancy Paulsen at Putnam Children’s Books published my first book, Spike, in 1998! I’ve never looked back. Moms are always right. SpikeCover_Bogan

Click here to buy a copy of Spike

 

Ferrante: Which comes first for you, the illustrations or the story? What is your process?

Bogan: Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a story, and sometimes I’ll sketch a character and the story evolves around them. But because I’m an illustrator first, I always think visually.

 

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My writing process always starts on a legal yellow pad. I revise and edit on paper making a lot of scribbly sketches in the margins. After many edits I’ll go to the computer. The act of typing gives me another chance to look at my words and make more revisions.

My next step is thumbnails. Thumbnails allow me to see the whole book at once and understand how the story is flowing. Finally I will make a dummy. I like to sew the pages together and form a blank book then glue stick my pages in.Bossy Flossy thumbnails B Ferrnate P Bogan

Now it’s off to my editor for many more rounds of revisions and changes!

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Ferrante: You were given Children’s Choice Book Award for Lulu the Big Little Chick. It’s about a little chick that runs away because she is sick of being told she’s too little to do things. How do you put yourself in the perspective of a small child?

Lulu the Big Little Chick cover Click here to buy Lulu the Big Little Chick

Bogan: I get inspiration and ideas for my stories from my childhood, my children, and everyday life! I never try to teach a lesson.

For instance, I was watching home video of my daughter Sophia when she was about six years old directing a play that starred her two little sisters and the dog. She was very bossy, but also very direct and concise about what she wanted. So when I was writing Bossy Flossy I tried to keep in mind her innocence, her directness, and her frustration. If I switch into thinking like an adult my writing becomes preachy and didactic.

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Ferrante Virgil & Owen and Virgil & Owen Stick Together are both “Mom’s Choice Awards Recipient” Gold Medal for Picture Books. Both books are about friendship. Why do you think they appeal so much to parents?

Bogan: Making friends is hard! Virgil and Owen are two “kids” with completely different personalities. Owen, the polar bear is quiet, steady, and sweet. He likes to think things through and take his time. Virgil, on the other hand can’t do things quickly enough, has a hard time sitting still, and is NOT a “look before you leap” kind of guy.

 Both Virgil & Owen and Virgil & Owen Stick Together provide an opportunity to talk about how friendships work, the importance of sharing, learning patience, and accepting each other’s differences.  Virgil and Owen show that “polar opposites” can be friends.
Click here to buy Virgil & OwenVirgil & Owen cover P. Bogan

 

 

 

 

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Virgil Owen Stick Together cover P. BoganClick here to buy Virgil & Owen Stick Together

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Ferrante: Spike in The City won the Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice Award in 2001. Spike in the Kennel was a 2002 IRA-CBC Children’s Choice. Tell us about Spike and why you think he appeals to readers.

Spike is an everyday, normal kind of guy. Sometimes he’s bored, sometimes he’s scared, and sometimes he makes mistakes. But like most children he learns a little each time he goes through something.

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Click here to buy Spike in the City
Ferrante: It seems that your books have messages for young children. Do you feel it is important for authors to help instill good values and social skills in their readers?

Bogan: I think if an author tries to hard to teach a lesson the book won’t work. The message has to come naturally through the characters and their personalities and the situations they get themselves into.

Ferrante: You have two books in progress, Bart the Bloodhound and One Dog. Can you tell us a little about them?

Bogan: Bart the Bloodhound is in contract with Henry Holt for Young Readers and is slated to come out Spring 2018. Bart is from a vampire family of dogs, but he is more “doggie” than vampire. He’s finding himself!

One Dog is a counting to ten book about a little boy who is a bit bored with his one sleepy pet – Dog. He has a dream that night and has quite an adventure with his not so sleepy dog! The two wake up happy to be together. One Dog is looking for a publisher!

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three random questions

Ferrante: If, for your next birthday, someone offered to make you the ultimate dessert of your choice, what great concoction would you request? Be deliciously specific.

Bogan: The ultimate dessert for me would last all day! For breakfast I’d start with a black and white milkshake so thick you need a spoon. Then for lunch I would like an angel food cake with chocolate icing.  For dinner I’d like a Chocolate Euphoria Cookie Bar, which consists of crushed Oreos, melted butter, chocolate drops, cereal, condensed milk, marshmallows, chocolate syrup, and white chocolate drops all layered and baked together!

I would end the day with a midnight snack of one scoop of coffee ice cream, and one scoop of sea salt and caramel ice cream.

Ferrante: When people find out that you are a picture book writer, what is the most typical question that they are likely to ask you regarding your job?

Bogan: #1 “Where do you get your ideas from?”

 #2 “How do you get published?”

Ferrante: Suppose that instead of having a name, you had a letter, and people would always refer to you as that letter. Which letter of the alphabet would you want to take the place of your name?

Well, my initials are PBJ, which is fun! But if I have to pick just one letter I am very attached to the letter P.

Letter P B Ferrnate P Bogan

 

 

 

Please come visit me at www.paulettebogan.com. and sign up for my newsletter to find out about new books, fun activities and appearances!

Listen to Paulette read Spike in the City 

Listen to Paulette read Lulu the Big Little Chick

Check out Paulette on facebook

 

A review of Bossy Flossy appeared on this blog on January 6, 2017.

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Finding the Truth Can Be Life Threatening: Something Stinks by Gail Hedrick. Book Review.

Click here to buy Something Stinks!

Something Stinks has received the Outstanding Science Trade Book award. With awards being given out left, right, and center, it is refreshing to see a book that has definitely earned its accolade. It is a fiction book, but the reader learns a great deal about water pollution, especially with regard to industry.

Emily is determined to find out why fish are showing up dead on the river banks by her aunt and uncle’s home. Her small town is suffering from job loss, so Emily’s investigations are less than popular. She decides to focus on an exposé for the school newspaper. Whatever industry she points the finger at may mean disaster for the company and, subsequently, the workers.

To make matters worse, her lifetime best friend, Leanne, is pulling away and hooking up with Cynthia, who is rich, spoiled, and bossy. Throw in more complications: her research is pointing toward the textile factory that employees many townspeople, Cynthia’s father owns that factory, the editor of the school newspaper is dating Cynthia, and Leanne wants Emily to leave things alone because she is maxed out on family drama. When trying to obtain water samples, Emily breaks the law and finds herself, and her new friends, in deep trouble.

As Emily researches the reader learns about incidents that can cause the death of fish such as a rise in temperature, dyes leaking into the water, and pesticides used by farms or golf courses.

The book is written in a comfortable style, with believable dialogue and enough suspense to keep the reader engaged. The editing is flawless. Each character is distinct and realistic. Emily becomes the reader’s hero, and like her, we want the fish killings resolved.

This would be a great book for readers aged 8 to 14. As an adult, I wasn’t bored for a minute and read it in one sitting.

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The author was interviewed on this on blog December 14, 2016.

rThe Scent of Something Sneaky was reviewed on this blog on December 5, 2016.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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