A Different Generation – Listen to the Wisest of All by Rita Blockman and Kimberly Morin. Photography by Charles Mercer. Book Review.

Listen to the Wisest of All is a collection of interviews with men and women aged 88 to 104 years old.

One thing that impressed me was the positive attitude many of the interviewees had toward their childhood even if they were raised in difficult circumstances, even poverty. They were proud of their own contributions to their families sustainability. They enjoyed simple things and appreciated what they had. Family, religion, and country were the three predominantly important influences on them. Gathering wealth, collecting expensive items, or garnering attention or a following was not of interest. Most importantly was contributing and acquiring independence and skill. These values are what a bold this generation to survive a world war and the Great Depression.

 Click on the cover to buy a copy.

There were sweet stories of romance, some with happy endings, some with un-requited love.

The best part of the book was when we were reading the direct quotes. Biography is so much better when told directly from the source. However, the authors have done a wonderful job of helping the reader connect to the 14 people featured in this little book. Their observations, emotional responses, and interpretations have made this more than a factual account of events.

Each interviewee was asked what advice he would share with the younger generation. Many recommended showing respect for everyone. Pay attention to the little things. Don’t judge others. Health and contribute when you can, no matter how old you are.

Recurring themes were the concern over what seems to be eroded values in society. Many of the elderly frowned on overly revealing clothing, lack of personal communication between people, and undisciplined children.

The loss of innocence at such a young age due to the media was mentioned more than once. I share this concern. Childhood has shrunk to the blink of an eye. This is all the more apparent when listening to elders’ stories about the simple fun they had as children.

A book like this makes me wonder what kind of stories will be collected for my generation. It would be wonderful if this could be repeated every 20 years. What a fascinating chronology that would be.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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Only in Canada! From the Colossal to the Kooky by Vivien Bowers. Book Review.


buy link – Only in Canada!: From the Colossal to the Kooky (Wow Canada!)

This hefty, nonfiction 95 page book has a humorous approach to engaging the reader. Scattered throughout the book are the narrators, a Canada goose and the moose, dressed in full clothing and making comments, some helpful and some silly.

There are six chapters in the book. The first is “Amazing Facts about How Canada Was Bashed, Pummelled, Scrunched, and Scraped into the Shape It’s in Today”. The humour and hyperbole draw the reader in to learn about tectonic plates, the Great Lakes, earthquakes, volcanoes, ice and more.

Chapter 2 is “Naturally and Wildly Canadian”. The author promises to share the “weird, intriguing, obnoxious, badly behaved, and utterly improbable plants and animals that exist in Canada.” I was not at all surprised to learn that Canada has one million square kilometers of muskeg.” Just try digging anywhere in my neighbourhood. I was surprised to learn puffins have a regular beak underneath their big fancy one, which they drop off after they win the female. Hmmm. Typical.

The only thing I must warn you about is if you need reading glasses, make sure you have them when you open this book. It is jampacked with tiny print. You won’t want to miss any of the fascinating facts and crazy tidbits. I had heard of Gray Owl but not Billy Miner or Two-gun Cohen. There’s even a paragraph about the lines down the middle of the road.

Chapter 3 focuses on the arrival of people. Chapter 4 is about Canada’s modern growth such as the canals, bridges, and buildings. Chapter 5 is about our weather. Yes it does deserve an entire chapter of its own. Chapter 6 is about interesting Canadians and I’m sure you’ll find some you’ve never heard of before.

This is a fun and informative book that may engage children (and adults) in Canadiana who otherwise would not be interested.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Canada Celebrates Multiculturalism by Bobby Kalman. The Lands, Peoples, and Cultures Series. Book Review.

Canada Celebrates Multiculturalism (Lands, Peoples, & Cultures) buy link

The topics covered in this nonfiction book are:

  • Beginnings of multiculturalism
  • Celebrating Canada’s history
  • Heritage days
  • Caribana
  • Cross-cultural festivals
  • Harvest festivals
  • Christmas customs
  • New year celebrations
  • Religion
  • Holidays
  • Family days
  • Festivals
  • Recipes

It also Includes a Glossary and an Index.

This is a lot of things to tackle in such a small book of 32 pages. Basically, it just whets the appetite.

The beginnings of multiculturalism is a two-page spread, three-quarters of which is a photograph. In the text bar there is a short paragraph written on native cultures, French and British, more people came, and celebrating multiculturalism. At the bottom, in italics, is a caption for the picture that reads, “Many cultures can be found in Canada. People in this picture represent the Native, German, Ukrainian, Filipino, and Engine populations in Canada. Can you identify them by their costumes?” I’m not sure about the other cultures, but First Nations people do not like their regalia to be called a costume. This is a disrespectful term.

In the “Celebrating Canada’s history”, there are paragraphs on Canada Day, Victoria day, Labor Day, and Remembrance Day. It does mention the alternative holiday celebrated by the French Canadians in Quebec. There is a small text box below the fireworks picture and a sketch about Louis Riel. It is entitled “remembering a hero.”

Under heritage days, the author gives a short blurb on the powwow. The entire second part of the two-page spread is about African Canadians. Turn the page and you’ll find paragraphs on the national Ukrainian Festival, Fete National, Festival du Voyageur, Klondike Days, Oktoberfest, Highland games, and Icelandic Festival. The entire next double-page spread is devoted Caribana.

Under harvest vegetables, Canadian Thanksgiving is described. The Green Festival celebrated by the Iroquois, harvest fall fairs, and the wild rice harvest by the Algonquin, Cree, and Ojibwa are explained. There is a flashback about the order of good cheer. A short paragraph explains the Chinese Moon Festival.

For such a short book, it shares a great of information on unfamiliar holidays. Well worth a read or for stocking your class library.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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All Fall Down: The Landslide Diary of Abby Roberts – Frank, District of Alberta, 1902 by Jean Little. Book Review.

Jean Little is a national treasure. Her body of work is phenomenal and this is up there with the best of them. You don’t have to be Canadian to enjoy this book, or the series, which is told in diary format.

The story of the landslide that buried part of the town in the coal mining area of Alberta, Canada, is told through the eyes of a young girl, Abby. Her father has recently died and her family has moved to Frank to live with relatives who run a hotel. The family dynamics are as complex and intriguing as real life drama. Abby, is a sensitive and loving child, the only one of her siblings willing to care for her Down Syndrome brother. The story is told through her diary entries.

This moment in Canadian history is relatively unknown by people living outside of Western Canada. The book is based on the true events and the deaths and near misses resulting from the landslide are taken from actual historical incidents. There are black and white photographs at the back of the book which show the size and extent of the mountain’s partial collapse. An explanation is given in the afterword as to the possible causes of the enormous landslide.

This book is both an engaging story of a family around the turn of the century and a stunning example of the power of nature. Abby, and her family, are based on a number of people Jean Little researched. Although it is written for tween readers, anyone from 9 to 90 will be intrigued by the story and touched by the impact of this tragedy on the community and individuals.

This book is part of the Dear Canada series which features a number of remarkable books. Some speak of heroism and sacrifice while some examine our most shameful moments.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Coming to Canada: Building a Life in a New Land by Susan Hughes. Book Review.

 

This is a nonfiction history book is organized into easy-to-read sections. Is quite up to date and inclusive. It begins with the arrival of the aboriginal peoples. It follows through with the Acadians and the Great Expulsion, an example of how prejudice and politics can destroy the lives of ordinary people.

Throughout the book, it honestly shows the cruelties and failures done while building our country. Many people know generally about the loyalists’ tribulations but few know how badly the emancipated slaves were treated. For example, “of the 30,000 Loyalists who came north to Nova Scotia in 1783 in 1784, roughly 10%, or 3000, were black.” Many didn’t get their land grants and if they did it was soil that could not be farmed. They were treated worse than second-class citizens. “And what about the other resources promised by the British – the lumber, the money, the tools? Again, the black Loyalists were always at the end of the line. Many suffered through their first winters in the inadequate temporary structures they put up just for shelter.” They were not given the same rations as the whites. But in spite of all this, the black loyalists built several strong communities of their own. While some may think it is shameful to bring forth the treatment of groups such as this, I think that their descendents would be proud of their resilience and ability to overcome such blatant racism. There may be inspiration in their suffering. I wish I could say that these inequalities were quickly corrected, but in fact the people of Halifax’s Africville were appalling victims of entrenched systematic abuse and neglect for 150 more years. For those of us who are not black, seeing the truth is a reminder that we must be vigilant against prejudice toward immigrants and minorities. A timely topic.

The book covers the arrival of the Irish immigrants in the 1600s aboard the coffin ships. It follows these people through the building of the railroad where it also connects up with the experiences of the Chinese immigrants.

You will find historical tidbits you may not have known. For example, have you heard of New Iceland?

In the late 1800s, many Ukrainian immigrants arrived and most settled around Winnipeg. The book explores the premises made by the Canadian government to potential immigrants. It examines the prejudices and false assumptions towards southern Europeans. I was surprised to learn that, next to the Chinese, the Italians “played the biggest role in pushing the Canadian Pacific Railway through the diamond-hard mountain rocks and steep-sided river valleys of Western Canada.”

Hughes discusses the treatment of Italians in the first world war, the creation of ethnic neighborhoods, and, again, the mistreatment of immigrants. The most shocking is the refusal of the Canadian government to allow most of the east Indians on board the Komagata Maru to disembark even though they were not being supplied with food or water. Eventually, they were forced to return to their places of origin.

Of course, you cannot speak of immigration without discussing the treatment of Japanese immigrants and their descendents, especially during the second world war. It is one of Canada’s most dishonourable moments.

After the Second World War, 165,000 refugees came to Canada. Those countries that came under Soviet control did not experience true freedom. 1956, Hungarians rose up with nothing more than kitchen utensils and makeshift weapons. The Soviets sent in tanks. 2500 Hungarians were killed and 37,000 were admitted to Canada as refugees.

Although not refugees, there was a surge of Americans moving to Canada during the Vietnam conflict in order to avoid being drafted. Approximately 50,000 to 225,000 Americans came to Canada. When they were offered a pardon in 1974, few were willing to take the risk to return. Of course, many Vietnamese immigrated to Canada during this time as well. They were followed by refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia, and more. Between 1991 and 2001 almost two million immigrants have arrived in Canada.

Canada is a nation of immigrants and refugees. Most of us know someone from each of these groups. We do not consider ourselves a melting pot but strive to be a mosaic wherein people keep the parts of their culture that do not contradict Canada’s laws or strong social norms. This can be difficult at times, but it is also enriching. The first time I went to Europe in 1977, I was surprised at how each country seemed culturally isolated from the next. If you wanted spaghetti, you’d have to go to Italy. The last time I went, in 2015, this had changed greatly. Countries had become multi-ethnic and food, music, and entertainment had spread from one country to the next. It felt closer to Canada where my typical Christmas dinner had always included Ukrainian periogies, Chinese fried rice, Italian lasagna, French bread, English pudding, Jamaican jerk chicken, Japanese sushi, Canadian wild blueberry pie and more. Multiculturalism at it’s best.

This book would be a marvelous addition to a family library. Adults and young people alike will find much to attract their attention. There are photographs and illustrations on every page. These include copies of important telegraphs, tickets, maps, numerous photographs and drawings, and more. It is written in sections just right for short periodic reads. An outstanding book.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Colossal Canada – 100 Epic Facts and Feats by Elizabeth McLeod and Freda Wishinsky. Book Review.

 

buy link – Colossal Canada: 100 Epic Facts and Feats

This pocketbooks style nonfiction paperback is jampacked with interesting tidbits and photographs. The content chapters are:

  • uniquely Canadian
  • extremely Canadian
  • unforgettable Canadian moments
  • highflying Canada
  • who put the can in Canada
  • Canada did it
  • colossal Canada
  • monsters myths and mysteries
  • things that make you sing “O Canada”
  • Canada rocks the world

This would be a good book for someone new to Canada as it often explores cultural idiosyncrasies. It discusses such things as Inuksuk (which I also see spelled Inukshuk), tuques, mukluks, poutine, kayaks, and lacrosse. Our widely varied geology and strange and dangerous animals show up in chapter 2. Included in chapter 3 is the involvement of Halifax in the rescue operations for the Titanic. It always impresses me how, for such a sparsely populated country, Canadians have come up with so many wonderful inventions, a few of which appear in chapters 4 and 6. Chapter five discusses some of our odd place names such as Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump and the hoodoos of Alberta.

I love this section in chapter 8 entitled “Five Myths About Canada” with explanations. For those non-Canadians reading this, just in case I will give you the headlines.

  • Myth number one: Canadians live in igloos.
  • Number two: Canada is always covered in snow. (It only feels that way. )
  • Number three: the national sport is hockey.
  • Number four: Canadian police officers dress in red.
  • Number five Canada is just like the U. S.

For those of you are interested in the unusual – Did you know Canada has its own special werewolf mythology? Did you know Northumberland Strait has a ghost ship? Neither did I.

This is definitely a fun and interesting book to read and its small size makes it easily portable. Great for leisure reading and for the classroom.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Canada Day – 150 Years

 

If you are not Canadian, you may not know that this Canada Day, July 1, 2017, is a special anniversary. It has been 150 years since Confederation.

I remember the excitement of our Centennial celebration in 1967. I was 14 years old and 100 years seemed an imaginatively long time. Looking back, the 50 years since seem to have flown by. However, our culture has matured and developed in ways that make me happy to say I am Canadian. We are more inclusive and respectful of differences. Our concern for the welfare of all citizens has grown and taken root in our actions and policies. We strive to protect our earth and to develop new forms of energy. We cherish our children and are working toward a sustainable future for them. This is not to say that we still don’t have a long way to go. But I am ever hopeful for our future.

We are a multicultural country. That means we recommend you learn English or French but respect your need to speak your own language as well. You’re welcome to keep your traditions, religion, and clothing styles as long as they do not break any of our laws or create dangerous situations for citizens. Myself, I am grateful for this attitude as I otherwise would never have found a Shin Buddhist Sect to join 30 years ago. Thunder Bay would not have developed from a pizza and doughnuts dominated city to a pizza and doughnuts dominated city with a lot of cool little ethnic restaurants as well.

Every year we have a Folklore Festival where people share their traditional food, dance, music, and dress. Thousands of people attend and it is not unusual to see a person of Scottish descent participating in a Japanese fan dance or and East Indian child devouring pierogies and Jamaican jerk chicken. With both deep regret and profound respect, we will watch the First Nations dancers and drummers perform on stage, their elaborate regalia testament to their strength, courage, and determination to survive in spite of the atrocities committed against them especially in residential schools.

If you live in Toronto or Montréal, you may not have the same view of Canada as those of us who live in small towns or cities in the north surrounded by forest. To us, Canada means you are 20 minutes away from wild spaces filled with trees, wildflowers, animals, rushing streams and sparkling lakes. This is the Canada I love, irreplaceable, fragile, and in need of our protection.

Without getting into politics, I have to say that I am dismayed that the POTUS to the south does share the same sentiment with regard to protection of wild spaces, clean air and water, and all species of animals. This is not to say that our track record is perfect. Canada has made some major mistakes as well. But in our hearts, I believe each of us understands the profound beauty and eco-diversity we need to cherish and shield. Although we may not agree on the methods by which to achieve this.

Most of the books for the rest of this month are about our beautiful nation. You will undoubtedly notice how dominant natural spaces are in our national psyche. I believe it is essential that every child, urban or rural, spends regular time surrounded by our bountiful boreal forest. Nothing calms your mind, refuels your energy, stimulates your creativity, and strengthens your gratitude then connecting with the earth in its purest state.

On Canada Day, we will be attending the city celebrations with loud music, and overindulgence of food, dancing and singing, and noisy a spectacular fireworks. But, in a truly Canadian way. Our celebration will be held at the local marina where sailboats and waterfowl glide past, the waves of the majestic Lake Superior splash up and over the breakwater, and the Sleeping Giant (Nanbijou) dominates the harbour reminding us that all Canadians need to be included in our policies, practices, and dreams for the next fifty years.

HAPPY CANADA DAY!

 Like this shirt, the pictures above  (and more) are available in my Cafe Press shop.

 

Pioneer Alphabet by Mary Alice Downie. Illustrated by Mary Jane Gerber. Book Review.

I love a book that takes you further and further into the subject. This is the type of book that a child learning about pioneers can go back to over and over again and learn something new each time.

On first read, the text boxes at the bottom of each beautifully illustrated page contains several words that begin with the featured letter. For example, “A is for Abigail and Anna, my two sisters. Even though they are awful, I am making them an alphabet book.” “B is for Bangalore. I can do whirrlies with it. Abigail can only make it go up and down, and Anna can’t even do that.” As you follow the text through the book, you learn more about Zebadiah’s pioneer family and the work and play that encompasses their very full days.

For a more extensive understanding of pioneer life, each page has further details at back of the book. For example, it explains the A page like this: “Like other pioneer children, the twins, Abigail and Anna, lived in a log cabin in the woods with their family and household pet – Xersus the cat. They didn’t go to school, nor did they have television, computer games, or friends nearby. But even though they had many chores, they still managed to have fun – and get into trouble!”

Going through the third time, the reader can examine the illustrations above each full-page picture. This reminds me of the style of Jan Brett. For example, above the “A” page you can find an acorn, arrow, ark, animals, acts, and bill, and amethyst.

This would be a very valuable resource for teachers in primary grades. There is just enough information on each page to make for a comfortable first read. Children will enjoy trying to figure out the additional alphabet words above each picture. Further information at the back will be helpful to the teacher.

The illustrations are impressive and engaging. By the end of the book, the reader feels as though he or she knows this pioneer family and how their lives progress. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in pioneer life or for classrooms where North American pioneers are on the curriculum.

Other books where the frames extend the story or information. Click on the cover to buy the book.

PLEASE COMMENT IF YOU CAN THINK OF SIMILARLY ILLUSTRATED BOOKS OTHER THAN JAN BRETT’S.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Writing/Righting History & Getting Toddlers to Eat – Author Delin Colón Three Random Questions Interview

delinglasses1aDelin Colón is a writer and freelance editor with a background in clinical psychology.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Delin. You have had a number of career paths. Tell us a little about them and how they led to your writing.

Delin Colón: Thank you, Bonnie. Actually, I wrote my first poem at the age of eight (in 1958). Several were published in minor literary magazines during my high school and college years. Then came essays and short stories.

While I had majored in French and French literature in my undergraduate years, I turned to clinical psychology in graduate school which combined my love of research and working with people, and led to counseling children and adults in a variety of clinical settings such as psychiatric hospitals, halfway houses, walk-in clinics and a juvenile detention center. This background led to a job as a technical writer for Sociological Abstracts. I loved the challenge of reducing an experiment or study down to four sentences describing the essence of the article.

A decade or so later, as the co-owner and manager of a stairbuilding company, I saw a need in the marketplace for a clearinghouse of all kinds of writers and formed a company that matched freelance writers with jobs. But the real impetus for publishing my first book, Rasputin and the Jews, came from reading the memoirs of my great-great uncle who spent a decade as Gregory Rasputin’s secretary/manager.

Ferrante: You have written two very different books, a historical nonfiction called Rasputin and the Jews and a picture booked titled Zeke Will Not Eat. Let’s talk about the first one for a bit. How much research did that involve? Did you have the plot and then do the research or did you discover the plot as you researched?

Colón: Actually, Rasputin and the Jews: A Reversal of History is the culmination of 15 years of researching the writings of people who knew Rasputin. My father had always told me that his great uncle, Aron Simanovitch, had been Rasputin’s secretary. For years I tried to research my ancestor but with little luck until the late 1990s when I found, on the internet, an out-of-print copy of Simanovitch’s memoirs in French. It did not seem to have been professionally edited at all, as there was a lot of repetition and poor organization of the manuscript. However, what struck me about it, first of all, was that my great-great uncle was one of the few Jews permitted to live outside Russia’s Pale of Settlement where most Jews were confined. But even more importantly, his memoirs conveyed a completely different image of Rasputin than history and myth have recorded.

My second book was my English translation, with historical annotations, of Simanovitch’s memoirs, titled Rasputin: The Memoirs of His Secretary by Aron Simanovitch.

Ferrante: How do you organize your research and make it easy to find something you read later on? I read that you worked on the book for 15 years. You must have been buried in documents.

Colón: Most of the books I read about Rasputin propagated the demonic myth that had been fabricated by the Russian nobility to discredit him. But there were quite a few quotes and memoirs from those who knew him intimately, on a nearly daily basis (such as my great-great uncle and Maria Rasputin), that told the story of a humanitarian (who, okay, loved to party) who, contrary to government policy and to the wrath of the aristocracy, advocated equal rights for oppressed minorities as well a voice in government for all citizens.

With regard to organizing the research, I used a simple index card file with the subject and date of the quote or event at the top, the quote in the body of the card, and the title, author and page of the resource information at the bottom. The cards were then organized by subject matter and then chronologically within each chapter’s subject.

Ferrante: Can you give us a sentence or two about Rasputin and the Jews?

Colón: Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History is the product of research providing evidence that the Russian nobility, clergy and bureaucracy conspired in a smear campaign against Rasputin because they saw him as dangerous:

  1. for advocating equal rights for Jews (in opposition to the laws restricting their lives)
  2. for the popularity of his upbeat sermons of a loving God (in contrast to the fear of God preached in the Russian Orthodox Church)
  3. for being anti-war and preaching peace during World War I.
  4. and for believing that all citizens should have a say in government…the biggest threat to the nobility.

Ferrante: Why did you challenge the tradition beliefs about Rasputin?

Colón: History is written by the victors, not by the common man.  It became clear to me that Rasputin became a collateral victim of, among other things, the virulent anti-Semitism of the aristocracy, bureaucracy and clergy. My research revealed that it was not only my ancestor’s experience that Rasputin was a generous man, a healer and a progressive humanitarian, but that others who knew him well witnessed the same traits, refuting the demonic image. For me, it was a matter of righting a century-old injustice. Interestingly, Rasputin and The Jews led me to a correspondence with Rasputin’s great-great granddaughter in France. She tours Europe and Russia lecturing to dispel the myths about Rasputin.

Click on the cover to buy Rasputin and the Jews

Ferrante: Your latest book is a picture book for children, Zeke Will Not Eat.  Why did you choose this subject?

Colón: I’m in the process of writing a series of books for 2 to 6 year-olds, addressing typical toddler issues. Zeke Will Not Eat is the second one. I’ve done some research on the most common problems parents of this age group face and not eating is high on the list. The first book, Katy Rose Likes To Say NO!, addresses that stage where children assert their independence and establish themselves as separate from their parents by saying “no.”

Click on the picture to buy Katy Rose Likes to Say NO!

Ferrante: Did the technique used in the book come from personal experience?

Colón: Yes it did. It was a technique I devised for myself as a child, using my imagination to make mealtime more interesting for myself. It was completely internal and not something I mentioned to my parents or siblings.

Ferrante: Do you have any other tips for parents having mealtime difficulties with a child?

Colón: At the beginning of each of these little books, there is a note to parents explaining the behavior and its purpose in the child’s development. With Zeke, I note that, barring medical issues, there are a variety of reasons for a child’s unwillingness to sit down at the table for a meal, from filling up on snacks and drinks too close to mealtime, to feeling excluded from the conversation, or simply exercising newly found manipulative abilities.

Click on the cover to buy Zeke Will Not Eat

In Katy Rose, my note to parents stresses that it is not only normal, but developmentally necessary for children to go through a “no” phase in order to assert themselves in the world and establish a Self, an identity separate from their parents. As powerless beings subject to adult authority, “no” is often a child’s first taste of power and individuality. But when it becomes routine defiance or is hurtful to friends, it is an opportunity to teach compassion and the unfortunate consequences of negativity. There is also discussion on when it is important to say “no.” One way to avoid “no” is to make statements rather than ask questions, reducing the possibility of options. Rather than asking, “Do you want to go for a walk?” saying, “Let’s go…” or “Now we’ll go…” assumes the event will occur and doesn’t give an option.

Ferrante: The illustrations seemed odd at first glance until I read how they were done using the same 150 shapes arranged and rearranged to create pictures. Why did you choose this technique?

Colón: I grew up in a small town on the east coast that was essentially an artists’ colony. My mother is an artist and we were always given art projects to do, in a variety of media. One of the most famous artists in our town was Ben Shahn. His teenage daughter, Susie, happened to be visiting at my friend’s house when I was about 7 years old. She sat us kids down on the floor, cut a huge variety of shapes from construction paper and had us arrange the shapes into an image on a blank piece of paper. It was like doing a jigsaw puzzle with no ‘right’ outcome; just whatever our imaginations could conjure.

I’ve been enamored of this technique ever since, and have a website of other images I’ve created, in addition to the book illustrations. (http://delin-colon.pixels.com/)

I have nothing in mind when cutting the pieces of varying shapes, lengths and sizes. The challenge is in turning them into illustrations that convey the text. One image might take a couple of days to a week to produce. By the way, all of the pieces used in Katy Rose were also used in Zeke, with a few dozen more added for the latter. Instructions for doing such a parent-child art project are at the back of each book. Alternatively, a child could color in the black and white images, as one would in a coloring book.

Ferrante: I don’t think people realize how challenging it is until they try it.

What are you working on now?

Colón: I’m conjuring the third book in the series which will be about telling the truth, a more difficult and abstract concept than the first two. Interestingly, my research revealed a study showing that children are more likely to tell the truth after hearing positive stories (like George Washington being praised for admitting he chopped down the cherry tree) than they are after hearing stories with negative consequences for lying (like The Boy Who Cried Wolf or Pinocchio

In addition, I have half a dozen rough chapters of an existential coming-of-age novel illustrating how Self and Identity are shaped and the conundrum that there is no absolute Self without outside influences.

Ferrante: Interesting. That’s similar to Buddhism.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share with my readers?

Colón: This is the most thorough and in-depth interview I’ve done, with questions that pertain specifically to my work, as opposed to the general, stock questions that others ask every writer. I’ve really had to think about them. I just hope that your readers find some of my work of interest.

Ferrante: I’m sure parents of toddlers will appreciate your tips.

Three Random Questions:

Ferrante: What was the craziest thing you ever bought?

Colón:   I’ve never been a lover of shopping and have generally stuck to practical items but several decades ago I was intrigued by an ad for an electric device that could be set at various brain wave frequencies to induce alertness, memory, sleep, creativity, or relaxation. I was especially interested in increasing the Theta waves for creativity. At different times, I tried each different setting, wearing dark goggles that pulsed light flashes at different rates and head phones that played tones in the desired frequencies. They all tended to produce the same result for me: I’d fall asleep and have some very bizarre dreams. Not long after, I’d be awakened by one of my teenagers asking when dinner would be ready. Frankly, I never noticed any greater creativity, fatigue or relaxation in the ensuing meal preparations.

Ferrante: In your opinion, what song has the most beautiful chorus?

Colón: That’s a tough one. I guess the one closest to my heart would be Helen Reddy’s “You and Me Against the World:”

You and me against the world,
Sometimes it seems like you and me against the world,
When all the others turn their backs and walk away,
You can count on me to stay.

It describes perfectly the close relationship I had with my older son, a musician who, even at the age of 27, before his death eight years ago, proudly described himself as “mama’s boy.”

The song continues:

And when one of us is gone,
And one of us is left to carry on,
Then remembering will have to do,
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you,
Of you and me against the world.

Ferrante: Oh, I am so sorry. I can’t imagine losing my son. My deepest condolences.

Last question. Do you like your first name? What would you like to have been called?

Colón: I do like my first name (accent on the second syllable: de-LIN) mostly because I created it. It is not the name on my birth certificate, but a mash-up of my names that I’ve been using for over 50 years. I was given a Hebrew name, Chana Dvora, and though I like it, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, especially with the guttural “ch.” But if I had it to do over, from scratch, I always thought “Kate” suited me.

Again, Bonnie, thank you so much for this opportunity. I don’t think I’ve ever given such a heartfelt interview … probably because I was never asked such well-considered questions.

Ferrante: Thank you. I try to make my interviews unique to the interviewee. You’ve shared a lot of information with us. This is, by far, the longest interview I’ve printed but it is chock full of value and cool ideas. Thank you for participating.

Zeke Will Not Eat was reviewed on this blog March 20, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Three random questions are from a Bit of Banter, the Game That Gets You Talking)

The Second Jezebel by Peter Mowsbray. Book Review.

 

 

It is interesting that I should receive this book for review just as one of my favorite television series, Reign, is ending. I was interested to know what would happen to Catherine de Medici later in life. The portrayal of Catherine, the second Jezebel, is much harsher in the novel than the television series. I suspect the book is more true to life as the research seems extensive and detailed.

The novel begins with the slaughter of the Huguenots and is quite difficult to read through. Be prepared for a lot of gore and savagery. We learn that Catherine is responsible for the massacre and that her motives questionable . She is of the strike first and worry about the consequences later mindset.

The book is a thorough recount of the actions of Catherine and her less than likable children. Their brutish, selfish ambition and thoughtless extravagance is stunning. Although hated by all of France, Catherine does seem to be the only one in her family who truly cares about the country. Not from a sense of patriotism or responsibility but for the preservation of her family and Royal position.

At times I had difficulty keeping the characters organized in my head and was grateful for the cast of characters listed in the front of the book. But even though I sometimes lost the thread of who was who, the story was fascinating and occasionally cringe worthy. The villains far out numbered the heroes.

Although I prefer a book with a protagonist I can admire, the story of Catherine de Medici and her repellent family was compelling in a different way. One wonders how any country survived at all with rulers like these. Admittedly, Catherine’s machinations were brilliant and she had a much better understanding of diplomacy than those in power.

Peter Mowbray writes with authority and sensory detail. He gets into the head of a severely dysfunctional woman and somehow manages to make us feel sympathy, if not empathy, for her. Aside from the occasional punctuation error, the book is flawless and professional. If you like historical fiction written with power and accuracy, you will enjoy this book.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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