Book Review – Leonard (My Life As A Cat) by Carlie Sorosiak

Buy Link https://amzn.to/3mTrZBI

Leonard (My Life As A Cat) by Carlie the Sorosiak is one of the best children’s books I’ve read in a long time. I chose to read this to my granddaughter and found myself struggling not to read ahead when she wasn’t around. The author has a wicked sense of humour and a profound sense of humanity. We laughed out loud more than once.

Leonard is actually an alien who meant come to Earth as a human and spend one month in Yellowstone Park working as ranger. Unfortunately, something went wrong and he arrived hundreds of miles away, in the middle of a flash flood and in the body of a cat. He was rescued by a ten-year-old named Olive who is also a unique individual and going through tribulations of her own.

Leonard can type to communicate and can understand every species on the planet. It becomes Olive’s mission get him to the rendezvous point within a month’s time so that he can continue his immortal, hive-like, logical life. Olive tries to enrich his stay by fulfilling his unusual bucket-list, unusual that is, for a cat. However, a lot can change in a month. Both Leonard and Olive develop deep feelings for each and as the date approaches, we also find ourselves torn.

There are complications galore included the near impossibility of getting to the rendezvous point on time. Sorosiak builds the suspense and our angst over how this story will end. But she handles it like a master.

This story is about family, friendship, acceptance, love, courage, and sacrifice. My granddaughter and I were in tears when it was over, realizing that there could never be a more perfect ending.

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Fairy in Waiting by Sophie Kinsella. Illustrated by Marta Kissi. Book Review.

Buy link https://amzn.to/3fIfPrI

 This  popular humor writer now has two children’s books. Both feature a girl whose mother is a fairy and father is  a mortal. This isn’t your typical fairy story however, as she uses a computerized wand and presents herself as a normal woman most of the time. The husband is reminiscent of the early Bewitched  television series. He’s not too crazy about her using magic.

  Kinsella  uses humor and suspense  effectively and engages a young audience from the first page. My almost six year old granddaughter listened eagerly as I read this book to her in four sittings.  This early chapter book is supplemented with many pictures.

 If you are a traveler to resorts, you’ll chuckle at the scene where two fairy mothers have a wand battle over reserving poolside seats with their towels. There is also a chapter with wacky monkeys that children will love.

All in all, this is a light-hearted romp through modern magic and family dynamics.

 

I am accepting books for review. For information on how to submit, go here: https://bferrante.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/get-featured-on-my-blog/

Buy link https://amzn.to/3ljMNj4

Pushball A Game That’s Tasty to Eat! by Thomas Leavey. Illustrated by John Buck. Book review.

 

I procrastinated reviewing this book for quite some time because I was unsure what to  say about it. I read it a few times to my granddaughter and  solicited feedback from others.

The storyline is quite peculiar. A duck tries to get a groundhog to play Pushball with a giant ball. The groundhog dislikes the game and wants to eat the ball. The game does not go very well; the groundhog thinks it is too rough. At the end the groundhog eats the entire ball which swells him to four times his natural size.

The story is written in humorous rhyme abcb. Each page has from 1 to 3 quatrains. Here’s an example.

 The groundhog was puzzled

And stopped in his tracks.

He said, *that’s what I get (sic)

 for playing with quacks!”

 There are 42 quatrains in total which seems more than necessary for such a simple story.

The author explains on the last two pages that the moral of the story is “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” Then he explains  each animal’s secret for success.  This felt a little awkward.

However, the other reviews on Amazon  are all five stars. But the people I shared this with felt more like I did. My granddaughter thought it was funny and strange but long and wasn’t interested in subsequent readings.

 The illustrations are great. Vivid, lively and funny.

I have mixed feelings about this book.

Recycled Sundays – Where Is That Lego?

Having a normal Canadian son, I’ve had my share of trips to the emergency room. Mercifully, though, they’ve usually turned out to be less serious than at first panic. The case of the missing Lego is a good example.

Set the scene: Mother is shampooing her hair in the shower, little boy comes into the bathroom. Mother responds with a five minute lecture on the ill matters of interrupting, respect for privacy, mother’s deserve some peace and quiet, I can’t hardly hear you with the water running, you’re only supposed to come in here if you’re bleeding or the house is on fire.

“So,” she finishes grandly. “Are you bleeding?”

The child shakes his head no. His eyes look teary.

“Is the house on fire?”

“No,” he whispers,  “I have a Lego stuck in my throat.”

Since he was breathing and had survived my ridiculous lecture without turning blue, I took the time to rinse most of the shampoo out of my hair and get dressed. After all it was 28 below celsius outside.

It seems my son was trying to pry a part two small Legos with his teeth. (yes, we bought the official Lego separating tool. Two in fact. Fortunately, we did not buy the official separating tool finder.)

This was not our first trip to the emergency room (other stories involving bodily fluids which I will probably spare you). Being experienced in waiting area zombie -land, you can imagine my surprise when we were ushered right into an examining room. The doctor actually ignored the man with a missing ear and a teenager receiving oxygen to serve us. I really started to worry.

They poked and prodded. Nothing there. They listened to him breathe, in and out, in and out,. Nothing there. They shone lights in, on and around. Nothing there. They xrayed his stomach and even his nasal passages (has happened). Nothing there. I really, really started to worry.

“Tell me exactly what you did,” said the doctor.

My son describe how, while tryingto bite apart two double pegged lego pieces, one became lodged in his throat. He couldn’t breathe and he couldn’t spit it up. I felt the color drain from my face as I imagine myself blissfully shampooing my hair while he faced a life-and-death struggle with a building block.

“I ran to the stairs,” he continued, “I coughed and and then I could breathe. I told Mommy. I could feel it in my throat before but I can’t now.”

As the hours dragged by, my son felt better and better. The of medical personnel had begun shrugging their shoulders.  My son wanted to go home.

“Well,”  said Dr. Sherlock, “the only place left to look is at home.”

Which we did. On the bottom step, was a block that fit the one described by my son. He must have coughed it up as he was running to me. The combination of panic and the scratched throat convinced him it was still there. We also found a quarter and a missing earring. He kept the quarter. I kept the earring.

He certainly learned his lesson, I thought. He’ll never stick a Lego in his mouth again. I didn’t warn him about Thanksgiving.

At school, he was making a turkey mosaic with buttons and such. He couldn’t do much with the such, but the buttons were just the right size.

“I saw Logan at the principal’s office today,” my daughter informed me.

Whereupon I launched into a lecture on how he was supposed to stop rough-housing and getting into trouble and I couldn’t believe my own son would have to be sent to the principal’s office twice in his life. Talk about not learning from your mistakes.

“But Mom, I had a button up my nose!”

The principal, thankfully, had experience. It seems his own daughter was a nose packer.

“Don’t worry, Mom, the principal got it out,” said my son when I gasped. “It shot right across the room and smacked into his filing cabinet with a ding sound.|”

“What did you do then?” I asked, expecting a tale of his humble gratitude.

He shrugged. “I washed it off and glued it on my turkey.”

 

First published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times News

Sunday, January 12, 1992

Lost in London Duplo Adventure

My granddaughter and I made a mini travel adventure with Duplo about Egypt. Of course she wanted a mummy in it. I decided to make it into a mini video and a series was born.

I created a  Lego Dyplo adventure in London, England next. The two biggest problems were having enough Duplo for the large structures and convincing my granddaughter I had to take Buckingham Palace apart in order to build the next set. She wanted it to cover the dining room table forever. I added songs to this one and used PhotoShop to improve the pictures.

Lost in London: Using legos (mostly duplo) Cassie visits several historic sites in London, England but can’t enjoy herself until she finds Polly. What has happened to her best friend? This video is a great jumping off point for kids to write an adventure about Polly, whose appearance might surprise you. Sprinkled with variations of Mother Goose.

Check it out.

Upside Down Babies by Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds. Book Review.

 
The Illustrations in this book are engaging and adorable. The animal’s expressions are priceless.
It begins, “Once when the world jturned upside down”. We see animal babies and human babies spinning through the air wearing concerned expressions. On the next page, piglet lands in a parrot’s nest. On the following, the baby tortoise lands in an otter’s home, the lion cub lands beside a cow, and it continues. The expressions on the faces of the mothers and babies are priceless.
The foster mothers try their best but there are insurmountable odds. The cow cannot provide meat for the lion. The baby elephant can’t jump like the monther kangaroo. This sloth baby cannot keep up with the cheetah.
But then the world goes upside down again and everything returns to as it was. The families are happy to be reunited except for two. My granddaughter and I were disconcerted that the gorilla keeps the human baby and the mother keeps the gorilla baby. There seems to be no reason for this and most children will probably find it funny but there is a undertone of discomfort with the idea. However, children who don’t think too deeply on the subject will just just think it’s silly.
The follow-up to this could be a discussion of new pairings of mothers and babies. Which ones could work and what ones could never be compatible?

Blackflies by Robert Munsch. Illustrated by Jay Odjick. Book Review.

This book follows the typical style for Robert Munsch of silliness and repetitive phrases. The thing I loved about it was that it takes place in the  Canadian North, in a community similar to many around Thunder Bay. It starts off in such a familiar way that it made me laugh out loud.

Helen gets up one morning and is thrilled to find the snow is gone and it is finally spring. But when she opens the door the black flies and mosquitoes drive her back inside. While it usually doesn’t all happen on the same day, this is a sadly repetitive scenario for those of us who live in the North. Children who live in this area, and similar locations across Canada, will completely identify with the protagonist. Although the family is of Aboriginal descent, the insect attacks will connect with everyone  who has had similar experiences.

I was happy to see that the family in this book was First Nations and the artist was from the Kitigin Zibi Anishinabeg Algonquin community. While Aboriginal children are used to seeing native artists, it is inspiring to see someone using their talent to create picture books for the very young.

It would make a great gift for anyone who’s been driven indoors by mosquitoes and blackflies. Northern blackflies are not what you might be thinking. They are tiny insects that can get through needle size holes. In spite of their tininess, they take a good chunk out of your skin when they bite.

It is also terrific that Helen is the hero who saves her family from being overcome by the blood-sucking bugs of the North. I’m gratified to see more books with female heroes.

It is very difficult to find funny, picture books that feature First Nations families but connect with everyone. This is sure to become a classroom or camp favorite.

Buy link

 

Don’t Ask a Dinosaur by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Deborah Bruss. Illustrated by Louie Chin. Book Review.

This humorous picture book imagines what would happen if you asked for help with birthday party preparations and participation from dinosaurs. Although this scenario is obviously totally imaginary, the names and illustrations of the dinosaurs are up-to-date and informative. The children’s favorites, like tyrannosaurus rex, iguanadon, and stegosaurus are there, but some may be new to the reader such as deinocheirus, argentinosaurus, and aliopleurodon.

I like the fact that a brother and sister are having a birthday together. They look as though they could be twins. Hopefully this will entice boys to read the book as much as girls. When the children solicit the dinosaurs’ help, they discover that the rezinosaurus cannot blow up balloons without popping them with his long claws and a tanystropheus will become entangled in the decorations due to his long neck. Each page is filled with humorous situations featuring dinosaurs trying to do the impossible.

I was pleased to find a small glossary at the back with an interesting fact or two about each of the dinosaurs. For example, the argentinosaurus was probably the heaviest of all weighing as much as 1500 people.

What makes this a cut above similar books is the tight and inventive rhyming. The reader cannot help but be impressed at Esenwine’s mastery of rhyme and rhythm using long and complex dinosaur names. “Don’t ask an ankylosaurus to come in through the gate or a tanystropheus to help you decorate.”

The illustrations effectively portray the children’s frustration and  laughter at the unfolding disaster. The text is seamlessly superimposed over the full page spreads.

Kids who like Robert Munsch, dinosaurs, or books about party disasters will love Don’t Ask a Dinosaur.

The authors will be interviewed April 25, 2018.

Recycled Sundays – Animal Karma

I am relieved to see that our Canadian animals are not following in the violent footsteps of their Old World Counterparts. I do hear stories of bear and cougar attacks every summer and nod. These animals know we are the enemy. They’ve seen us destroy their homes, clearcutting and pollution being the favored methods. They have watched us trap, poison, and shoot their kin. It’s open warfare.

What scares me is when the attacks come from an unexpected source — hoofed farm animals, for example.

I must admit, though, they were provoked. I had previously thought that inbreeding eliminated that wild eye for an eye, fang for a fang trait. Unfortunately, domestic animals have begun to show their true colors.

For example, in Manganeses de la Polvorosa, Spain, the villagers drop a goat from the church belfry to start a religious festival. My first reaction upon hearing this was, what religion thinks this is a good idea? Is this the Church of the Holy Splattered Ruminants? These people have bats in their belfry. Each year, (I’m not making this up), the townspeople toss a goat from the 14 meter high belfry, catch it in a tarp, and release it, suffering only from vertigo and a new mistrust of crowds. This feat begins the Festival of Saint Vincent, the town’s patron saint. He was famous for his works of charity, especially to the sick, old, and orphaned. He must have had a taste for kid pancakes.

Fortunately, local police force lept to the defense of the goat. Unfortunately, villagers refused to take this butting in. They attacked the police at the last festival, and the journalists for good measure. It seems the only one who walked away unharmed was the goat.

Another hoofed fellow didn’t fare as well. A Romanian farmer in December 1991 wanted to clean the skin from his slaughtered pig. He usually used a vacuum cleaner to inflate the pig and burn straw over the skin to remove the hair. Do you suppose that’s where they got the idea of the giant Miss Piggy as a parade balloon?

The farmer’s vacuum broke so he used bottled gas. The pig went whole hog on revenge, exploding and injuring the farmer who spent three days in the hospital. I wonder whether a man who ignites a gas-filled creature should be allowed to work with sharp garden tools.

This is the kind of behavior I might expect from animals who have been treated as nothing better than a vegetable for consumption. But I didn’t expect vengeance from man’s best friend.

Last winter in Moscow, Gennady Danilov, at the young age of 33, was shot by his dog. His dog got his hind legs caught in a trap while they were out hunting. When Danilov tried to free him, the animal struggled and made the rifle discharge.

So far, these acts of vengeance have not spread to North America. Perhaps they are still to come by the poor unfortunate animals we use and abuse. However, I live with three cats. I would never allow my children to toss them. I lock the felines in the basement whenever I am working with any flammable substances. No firearms are allowed on the premises. But deep down I know this is futile. When they study me with six gleaming yellow eyes, I try not to imagine what kind of revenge they are planning in return for the last trip to the vet.

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

Sunday, June 14, 1992

Recycled Sundays – Defensive Ballroom Dancing

My husband and I are learning how to ballroom dance. I’ve always liked dancing but never learned the difference between a box step and an I-stepped-on-his-foot step.
Square dancing is experiencing a revival. It looks like fun too, although I am kept from participating by the music. Country and western gives me a nervous twitch. The lyrics make me want to slap the person next to me. The nasal twang makes me want to kick them while they’re down. But the intricate steps and choreography are impressive.
So, too, with ballroom dancing. It’ll be a long time before I can ever cha cha with Charro or Viennese Waltz without counting under my breath but I like a challenge.
The most reassuring thing about dance classes is that everyone struggles together. We all learn at our own rate and since I’m in the couples class, we bring our own encouragement. The confidence is most noticeable in men. Remember in school when we learned square and folk dances? The boys all turned into Jerry Lewis. As adults, they have weathered worse and survived. The travelling step isn’t as daunting when you have lived through parenting or job loss or divorce.
We practice our steps separately at first and the males are a joy to watch. Every man has his own style. One keeps his mouth tightly closed in determined concentration. A dust molecule couldn’t penetrate those compressed lips. One blushes brightly when he stumbles, seemingly unaware that four or five other guys have made exactly the same mistake. The older gentleman is as smooth and debonair as Fred Astaire while the younger fellow performs with the rigid precision of a military drill. One dances to the beat of a different drummer. Then there’s the totally in control gum chewer who not only remembers the steps and keeps the beat but doesn’t even seem to bite his tongue.
The women watch from the sidelines as their partners learn a new step. They parade past us like graceful peacocks each subtly flaring their invisible feathers. They boogie, rock, sizzle and strut. Of course, it’s easier for them to look good since they get to go forwards. They are most challenged practicing the spins. I imagine it’s because they didn’t have the opportunity to spin in a flared dress as a child like many of the women have.
When we women practice, we have to dance backwards without anyone to lead us away from each other. Since most of us are wearing heels, we move rather tentatively, not wanting to impale the woman behind us onto the gym floor.
Finally we get to dance together. The instructor calls out the men’s steps. The women must reverse the footing and do it while dancing backwards. So, we struggle with gender imposed restrictions, one step forward and two steps back, madly translating the dominant patterns until it makes sense from our point of view – just like real life, eh? Later on we get to change partners and try to accommodate a different man’s body shape and size with its unique rhythms.
At this point I am anything but graceful. I sweat like a high school gymnast without a bucket of chalk dust. I vary between counting the beat and reciting, “long, long, short, short” like a tribal chant. Not exactly the romantic exchange I had in mind when we started.
My husband has trouble leading. It’s the first time in eighteen years I’ve let himcontrol me without an argument. When my husband asks the female instructor for help, she offers to go through the steps with him. He hesitates, hands raise and asks, “Are you being a lady?” She laughs good naturedly and says, “That’s questionable.”
Our favorites are the polka and the tango. I give my husband a little extra room so he doesn’t bang my sore knees when we twist in the polka. He gives me a lot of extra room when we do the lunge in the tango. He’s learned that falling to the floor and clutching oneself is not an option in ballroom dancing. We’re getting pretty good since we learned to dance defensively.