Does a Bear Poop in the Woods? – Potty in the Potty Chair by S.J. Bushue and Deb McQueen. Book Review.

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 Click here to buy Potty in the Potty Chair

The book begins with a little girl sitting on the potty. The narrator asks, “Are you a big kid on the potty chair, reading a book with bottom so bare?” To which the girl replies, “Yes!” Considering what follows, it seemed as though this should have been the conclusion to the book.

From this point on, various children are asked if they are like animals who do not poop in the potty. For example, “Are you an elephant who goes potty in the zoo, leaving big heaps that make us say P.U.?” A horse drops huge piles, an alligator creates a mess in the swamp, a dog goes potty in the grass, a cat goes in the litter, and a goose goes by the pond where we step in it, a bird drops it from above, and a mouse leaves pellets everywhere. The book ends with, “Are you a big kid who goes pink and tink, using the potty chair when you sink the ink?” Sinking the ink is explained at the back of the book.

I like the fact that children learn about animals as they read this book, even if it is just about their poop. There are moments of humor such as when the Asian child steps in the goose’s poop.

The book is consciously diverse. The featured children are of a variety of races. There is even one African-American child with blue eyes.

Each page has four lines with an A B C B rhyme scheme. There are some unusual words such as romp, skitter, splatting, pellets, and route which may be difficult for a child of age 2 or 3. Some of the rhymes seem a bit of a struggle.

At the back of the book is a page with “Tips for Potty training success“. There is some good advice about staying positive and being encouraging. It is great that the author makes a point of stressing washing your hands, both the child and the adult.

“Quick and easy steps” explains the sink the ink strategy for potty training. There is a chart the child can use to record his or her successes. Copies are available on the website http://www.thelittlefig.com. There is also a jingle on the website which I felt could have been a little longer and more memorable.

The illustrations are bright, simple, outlined drawings. They fill the page completely. The text is superimposed on sky, wall or tree. All the children appear happy and interested in their surroundings.

All in all, I think this would be a positive and productive book to use when potty training a toddler.

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

S.J. Bushue was interviewed on this blog November 16, 2016.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Trapped! – The Secret Drawer written by Nancy Gee. Illustrated by Raye Ann Saunoris. Book Review.

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Click here to buy the Secret Drawer

This children’s picture book is based on a true event in the author’s life. A flying squirrel was trapped inside a dresser drawer while the family’s cat stalked it. The story unfolds in such a way that we feel the poor little squirrel is doomed. It is a relief to the reader when the woman intercedes on the wild animal’s behalf preventing the cat from killing it. At the end of the book, the author shares some facts about flying squirrels.

The illustrations in this book are hilarious. I’m not sure if it is intentional, but it is almost as though everyone is made out of mohair. They all have bug eyes; they all look like they’re tripping out. The pictures are made with ink outlines and filled in with watercolor. The text and picture share a page and the illustrator varies the point of view and placement throughout the book. The woman in the story wears a puppy pink dress with the zebra apron and huge fluffy pink slippers. The pages are glossy and bright. It is a beautifully packaged product.

The story is told in rhyme which I feel was an unfortunate choice. Writing in rhyme requires great skill. The rhythm not only has to keep the same syllabication per line, but the rhyming pattern needs to hold throughout or have a logical, compelling reason to change. Even if this had been mastered, the story doesn’t suit rhyming. I think it could’ve been an incredible book if the author had written in prose. She could have invoked the atmosphere, the emotional suspense, and the beauty of nature. It still could have been humorous but it would have been smoother and more compelling.

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

March 24, 2017 Helping Out a Friend – The Secret Path by Nancy Gee. Illustrated by Kathleen Newman. Book Review on this blog.

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

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

What’s That Smell? Recycled Sundays.

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David Suzuki once said that research indicates females have a higher developed sense of smell than men. I could have told you that. Most wives could have told you that.

Take Patty for example. She came home to a smell of gasoline in her house. Since she couldn’t track down the source, she phoned the fire department for advice. They said they would to come right over. She carefully explained that it was not an emergency. Nevertheless, two trucks, lights flashing and sirens wailing, roared up to her house. (It must have been a slow day at the fire hall.) The firefighters (all male) searched the entire building, top to bottom, inside and out while she stood in the shivering cold. Not one of them could locate the smell. In fact, not one of them could even smell it. The next day she learned that gasoline had been spilled in her driveway, soaked into the ground and wound up in the sump pump. That’s what she had smelled.

My husband and I often play the What’s That Smell? game. It goes something like this.

Me: “What’s that smell?”

Him: “What smell?”

Me: “That strange smell.”

Him: “What strange smell?”

Me: “Can’t you smell it? Over here. I think.”

Him: “No. I don’t smell anything.”

Me: “What do you mean, you don’t smell anything? It reeks!”

Him: “What reeks?”

Me: “Over here!”

Him: “I don’t smell anything.”

We played a continual version of What’s That Smell? Last autumn. I first noticed it when we switched to daylight saving time. It was a chilly morning. I woke, switched on the lights and turned on the furnace. A few minutes later, I asked, “What’s that smell?” The game followed the usual format. I left for work later in the day still unable to identify the mystery odor.

The smell worsened as the week progressed. Some days it was faint. Other days it seems slightly smoky. I decided there was something wrong with the heater system and telephoned a furnace expert. He arrived the next day.

“What’s that smell?” I asked him.

“What smell?” he replied.

He left after thoroughly checking the system. There was nothing wrong and he couldn’t smell of thing. He decided it was probably dust in the piping.

As time passed I narrowed the smell down to the living room. I decided there must be something stuck in one of the vents. After I vacuumed them out, however, the smell remained. I despaired of ever locating the source.

One morning as I sat quietly reading the newspaper, I heard a thump on a living room end table. Since the cats were all in the kitchen with me, I went to investigate. There sat a gently smoldering green blob. I picked it up and instantly recognized the scent. It seems some little person (I assume this was a trickster fairy since both my children emphatically deny responsibility) had hidden a soft plastic toy monster on top of the lamp’s bulb. Every morning when I turned on the tri-light, the plastic would heat up and start to smell. If the light was low, the scent was weak. If I turned the light on high, the fire smoldered and smelled stronger. The lampshade hid the melting toy from my sight.

I think my husband is tired of playing the smell game. He does the shopping and although I environmentally disapprove of air fresheners, he’s been smuggling them in. It isn’t going to make any difference though. With two kids and three cats there always mysterious organic and inorganic odor makers. In fact, when my son was helping clean the family room, I noticed something.

“What’s that smell?” I asked him.

“What smell?” he responded.

I looked at his bewildered expression.

“Nevermind, son,” I said. “I’ll ask your sister.”

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Look Out For Barb! – Jump! By Guy Porfirio. Book Review.

 

Click on the cover to buy a copy of Jump!

This is Guy Porfirio’s first book as both writer and illustrator. As soon as you open the book it is apparent that Porfirio has a talent for remarkable illustrations. The double page spread on the inside cover is a collection of pencil sketches probably used when planning this picture book. They are action-packed and humorous, as is the rest of the book.

The book opens with a double page spread of the desert filled with cacti and a distant coyote. The text reads, “Ordinarily, things are pretty quiet in the desert. But this was no ordinary morning. And Barb was no ordinary cactus. Barb, you see, wanted an adventure.”

Right away, we know something new and exciting is going to happen and we suspect the coyote will be involved. Barb jumps onto the passing coyote who flings her through the air where she lands on a man’s jeans. It continues with a ride in an eagle’s talons, the popping of a river raft, a roof luggage rack ride, perched on top of a motorcycle helmet, on a balloon and on and on around mainland United States. Eventually, Barb misses her friends and hitches a ride on “the very next cowboy home.” She regales her friends with her adventures. Soon everyone is following her example and cacti are popping up everywhere.

This is a humorous book with impressive illustrations. The reader enjoys following Barb’s wild adventures. One page was especially cool where Porfirio divided the double page spread into six slices and wrote and illustrated, “She boarded, boated, bulldozed, bobbed, bicycled, and bounced.” A lovely page of alliteration.

Without using overly difficult words, Porfirio enriches the text in clever little ways. Another example is when we read, “And Barb got a little carried away at the Museum of art.” The words have a double meaning since Barb is floating away on the string of a balloon.

Although it was adventurous for Barb, I think the story could have been more suspenseful for the reader if, at one point, we felt she was in danger. However, it was the author’s choice to keep the story sweet and fun.

After reading this to a child or class, a discussion about trying new things and taking reasonable risks could follow. And of course, researching jumping cactus, which don’t really jump but hook in painfully should you go too near.

This was a really fun book to share with my granddaughter. We loved Barb and wanted her to have the trip of a lifetime, which she certainly did.

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

The author will be interviewed on this blog on April 19, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Can You Invent This Please? Recycled Sundays.

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Photo by Shane McGraw

Don’t you think the rate of useless inventions has outstripped the useful? When was the last time you really needed a skinny musician doll wavered when you placed it in front of a stereo speaker? Can you believe people are still buying lava lamps and fuzzy dice? I really think we would have a solution to the garbage problem if we just banned novelty shops. But, perhaps I am just bitter. There are too many things I need that haven’t been invented yet.

I need water-resistant pen and paper for writing in the shower because as soon as I get out, I’ve forgotten what I meant to do. How about a bathroom door that won’t open until the child has washed his hands? Or an alarm that rings when a child tries to leave the building without making his bed. Both my daughter and I could use a tiny colander for sterilizing pierced earring studs. Perhaps then we wouldn’t spend so many hours on our hands and knees playing find the microscopic piece. How about self composting toys to avoid overloading the landfill sites in my kids’ rooms? Bedrooms should be designed with slanting floors so that balls and toys with wheels all roll safely to one end.

Wouldn’t we all benefit from twist tops that didn’t require the wearing of oven mitts to prevent the need for stitches? How about childproof bottles that parents didn’t have to ask the kids to open? Or travel shampoo bottles that did not leak all over the contents of your luggage?

Let’s have some serious government grants to perfect a lie detector admissible in court. Imagine the money we’d save on lawyers and court costs as well as incarcerating innocents. There would be a lot fewer crimes if the guilty were proven guilty and sent directly to jail instead of allowed to pass, “go.”

How about suspended animation booths for hospital emergency waiting rooms? We wouldn’t get served any quicker but at least the time would past without every second seeming like an eternity.

Someone without children obviously invented Daylight Saving Time and then decided to begin it before summer vacation. That way the kids could be absolutely wrung out from lack of sleep while coping with the emotional ups and downs of the end of school.

A genuinely nasty person invented high top runners, with laces, for small boys. He probably also designed handheld (meaning small enough to be easily misplaced) video games with alarms that sound at three in the morning.

An inventor who wasn’t making his quota must’ve come up with the useless instructions I find in my bathroom. A phrase on the suctioned bathmat reads, “This side down.” No kidding. Could you imagine someone sticking the suction cups to the bottom of their feet and hopping around the tub? Obviously, he did.

How about a bottle of round, orange vitamins? Inside is a white paper square stuffed with absorbent cotton. On it is printed, “Do not eat this.” If people are that stupid hadn’t they better right this warning on paper plates, Styrofoam cups, swizzle sticks, straws and plastic wrap? Or maybe someone should invent edible substitutes for all these things. Of course that would put the person who writes warnings out of work.

December 9, 1990.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Can You Hear Me Now? Recycled Sundays.

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Some people have a strange need to humiliate themselves. A favoured method is to buy an item for display that is so tasteless, it leaves your guests speechless. One obvious example is the purchase of cow patty clocks. Honest. People actually spend their hard-earned green stuff to buy a sun-baked pile of brown stuff inlaid with a clock face. The larger the better. What can one say?

“I’d like to see the milker that dropped that one!”

The higher-priced ticking manure piles have mushrooms and weeds. I suppose one should expect to pay a little extra for natural embellishments. I mean, doesn’t a mushroom show the superior fertility of your chosen timepiece?

Maybe the idea is to humiliate the guests. After all their years of reading Miss Manners, perhaps attending Toast Masters meetings, these guests suddenly find themselves unable to say a single polite sentence.

What about the “Kiss a Pig” elections? Candidates in the U. S. actually run against each other for the humiliation of kissing a pig. Not a porcelain pig. A living, breathing, runny nosed, stinky swine. On the lips. In public. They don’t even get to choose the pig. It isn’t humiliating enough to let the entire world know that they are desperate enough to compete for Porky’s; three of the contestants will have to face the public embarrassment of losing. Imagine. “I wasn’t desirable enough to win a kiss from a pig.”

I’d heard of hog-calling contests and thought the participants were skirting public humiliation. While the pig-kissing elections definitely outrank them in weirdness, the husband-calling competition outdoes them all. Wives at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield actually compete against each other while bellowing for their spouses. Now you may think this is more humiliating for the men involved, what with their names being shrieked across the fairgrounds. Not so. You see, the women get to dress for the occasion.

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The featured competitor in the newspaper, Paula Tyler, was wearing a frumpy cotton house dress, curlers and a bonnet that looked like the tinfoil on a self-contained popper package minus the wire handle. She also utilized props: an iron board, iron, and a pair of man’s trousers. As I examined this photograph, I realized the woman was not only humiliating herself for a few laughs, but every woman who ever wore curlers while she ironed and yelled for her husband.

Not that it isn’t a necessary art for many wives. I mean when you finally have the iron hot enough and the steam hissing, you don’t want to leave the tense of the door or pick up the baby. Why is it that the husband can’t hear pounding guest or a wailing tot anyway? No wonder these women have to stretch the vocal cords. Their husbands are probably one of those men with selective hearing. You know the type. They can hear the opening notes from The National for rooms away but can’t hear the kid with his head stuck in the banister.

On second thought, maybe it is the husband who is being humiliated by this contest. Perhaps this is a not-so-subtle way of saying, “I know the real you, and now so does everyone else.”

 

Published Sunday, September 2, 1990 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

How to Get Robbed. Recycled Sundays.

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Having grown up in a twelve street town, I wasn’t prepared for life in the city, complete with burglars.

When my husband and I moved into our first single-family dwelling we stupidly considered ourselves at no risk. The house was older than our combined ages. We owned a rusty Chevette and wore clothes from the bargain bin. Surely no one would consider robbing our home worth the risk of incarceration. There hasn’t been such naïveté since Wendy trusted Tinkerbell.

My husband, infant daughter and I lived in a 2 1/2 story home. The bedroom ceilings were sloped. We adopted a permanent stoop after repeatedly dashing our skulls in Wile E. Coyote style. In summer, the upper half of the home retained heat like a kiln. We ran fans in our room and the baby’s, as well as the furnace vent. Every night we propped up the windows with the removable screen and then shouted good night over the whirling machinery.

One sultry evening my husband and I stared at a mountain of dishes and engaged in dueling excuses.

“The baby has been so colicky today, I’m just exhausted,” I said.

“It was so hot today, I shouldn’t have done all that yard work,” responded my husband.

“She didn’t sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time. I couldn’t get anything done,” I said.

“Those cinder blocks must’ve weighed a ton,” he said.

“I’ve got such a headache,” I said.

“I’ve got such a backache,” he said.

“It sure is hot,” I said.

“Really hot,” he agreed.

We left the dirtiest dishes to soak and stacked the rest on the counter. Suddenly, my husband noticed two teenagers in our backyard. He hammered on the window and thumbed toward exit. The boys scrambled over the fence and disappeared.

“What do you suppose they’re up to?” I asked.

“Probably raiding the garden,” said my husband.

Now I suspect they had bigger thefts on their minds than wormy carrots. But we will never know for sure who visited us at 3 AM. My husband had just placed the baby back in her crib after a diaper change, when he heard a faint crash. With all the fan noise he couldn’t tell the direction. He switched on the hall light and went down to the landing. All was quiet.

The next morning I couldn’t find his lunch pail among the mountain of dirty dishes. Then I noticed the screen was gone from the window and his small portable saltshaker was in its place. After investigating, we discovered the lunch pail, thermos, two potted plants, and four dishes on the backyard lawn. A prickle went down my spine.

Someone had piled our cinder blocks against the wall creating makeshift stairs, climbed on top, and then tried to climb through the kitchen window. There they encountered the stacks of dirty dishes. They tried to remove them in order to get onto the onside counter. The crash my husband heard must have been the window accidentally falling shot and trapping the saltshaker. Switching on the light had scared them off.

Our newest home is comfortable, but hardly a burglar’s paradise like the last. I suspect a thief who gained entry would be easily caught. We would be bound to hear him rolling on the floor with laughter over our $50 third-hand stereo with eight track tape deck.

Nevertheless, we’ve installed double dead bolt locks on the doors and bars on the basement windows. There are bright lights on all the exterior walls of the yard are easily viewed by the neighbours. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can buy to protect me from a recurrence of stupidity.

One evening I switched on the outside lights, checked the windows and doors, and went to sleep in my quiet bedroom feeling confident and safe. The next morning, as my husband headed out the door to work, we heard rattling. The burglars had missed their best opportunity. There, in the front doorknob, hung my house keys.

July 7, 1991

Click the book cover for details.

          

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

A Prickle of Porcupines. Think You Know Animal Groups? – Herds of Birds Oh How Absurd! by S.J. Bushue and Deb McQueen.

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Click here to buy Herds of Birds Oh How Absurd!

This is a bilingual picture book, English and Spanish. It begins:

“Cattle roam in herds, but not a covey of quail.

El Ganado Vaga en rebaῆos, pero no un grupo de perdices.

Cranes stroll in herds, but not a tower of giraffes.”

Readers learn that deer, dinosaurs, elephants, hippos, horses, kangaroos, llamas, moose, pigs, reindeer, seals, walruses, yaks, and zebras all travel in herds. But porcupines, flamingos, hamsters, alligators, butterflies, lions, toads, ferrets, geese, nightingales, dolphins, penguins, hummingbirds, and monkeys are identified by a different collective noun. I’ve always loved a flamboyance of flamingos and a prickle of porcupines but a charm of hummingbirds is a new term for me.

The vocabulary is quite rich even for children with English as a first language. However, adults reading to children whose first language is Spanish could concentrate on the names of the animals. Adults will probably not tire of this book very quickly as it would be an enjoyable challenge to learn all the collective nouns.

If you go to the website http://www.thelittlefig.com you will find a song to accompany the book. It’s an excellent sticky jingle, however, you must reinforce that the child not stop after the words, “Do we say herds of birds?” but continues on to sing, “No, how absurd. Birds don’t fly in a herd but a flock.” There are downloadable coloring sheets that match some of the pictures in the book. There is also a video of the book being read in Spanish.

The illustrations are created with solid chunks of color and black outlines. On some of the pages animals are behaving like animals, but on some the illustrator has chosen to emphasize the collective noun. For example the business of ferrets is taking notes on the stock market, working on the computer, and checking a watch while carrying a briefcase. Hamsters (horde) are hoarding buttons and spools of thread. The flamingo (flamboyance) is carrying a fancy fan and a feathered headpiece. The alligators (congregation) are singing hymns. In other pictures the animals are playing soccer, being flagged in for a landing, carrying an umbrella and wearing sunglasses, or evaluating each other’s jumps. This humorous illustration leads well into discussion.

Even without the second language, this is a valuable book to share with children from 3 to 10 years old.

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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

The Joy of Making People Laugh: Author/Illustrator Sal (Salvatore) Barbera Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: My guest today is Sal (Salvatore) Barbera, author, illustrator, and artist. Welcome Sal. Please tell us in three or four sentences a little about yourself.

Sal Barbera: I’m an “it’s never too late to start writing” writer. I wrote my first book a few years ago. I believe laughter is the best medicine, and that’s actually why I wrote my first book, to make my mother-in-law laugh. I heard that Charley Chaplin once said: “ A day without laughter is a wasted day.” Those are words I live by.

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Ferrante: Why did you choose to write picture books as opposed to any other genre?

Barbera: I’m a visual person and I love to draw. When I write, I draw the characters as I’m writing the story. It helps me to visualize it as I go along. I didn’t actually choose to write picture books, it just turns out that what I write and draw is also ideal for picture books.

Ferrante: You have written “I show kids how to deal with difficult personal and social situations using humor, diplomacy and intelligence.” What kind of situations are you talking about?

Barbera: In Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow, she arrives at a new farm where every single cow has spots, and she’s totally spotless. She’s instantly thrown into an adversarial situation when they immediately don’t like her and won’t have anything to do with her. It’s a situation ‘different’ kids experience when they’re at a new school or camp or even the community pool. These are stressful situations for children, and they need to figure out how to get their peers to like and accept them. There are many kids that have to deal with being somehow different from the other kids. And being ‘different’ can lead to bullying and prejudice.

In another one of my books, Ernie The Dysfunctional Frog, Ernie can’t understand why he can never seem to do what the other frogs can easily accomplish. In every situation, he seems to fail or lag behind, while the other frogs do the same thing so easily. The surprise of this story is that there’s a very good reason why this happens. And that’s what makes him different from the other frogs. The themes of love and friendship are woven through this story as well as a big dose of humor and diplomacy.

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Ferrante: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

Barbera: I’m a writer. But for me, it’s very much an inspiration thing. When I hear or see something that sparks an idea I go into writing mode. I don’t sit down every day at a set time and write just to write something. But I do think of something funny or interesting every day, and many times I’ll write that down as an idea for a story.

Ferrante: Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow is about exclusion. Why did you feel this was such an important topic? What personal and social ramifications do you think exclusion causes?

Everyone wants to fit in and be accepted. Especially by their peers. Children can be profoundly hurt by being excluded from a group. It’s a horrible feeling to be rejected or ignored by people that you want to like and accept you. The key is what you do when that happens. You can be dejected and turn against them. You can be sad, feel rage or worse, become suicidal.

It’s how you deal with exclusion that determines your character. The secret is to figure out a way to turn their cold shoulders around and be welcomed into the group for who you are.

That’s where humor, diplomacy and using your intelligence (brains) comes in. Mary Elizabeth was rejected by the entire group at first. But she figured out a way to not only overcome the rejection and make friends, but also to open their eyes to the unfairness of their prejudice. Proving, in her case, that it’s what’s inside that counts more than appearance. And, that she is a lot of fun to be around when you get to know her.
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 Click here to buy Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow

Ferrante: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?

Barbera: It’s not typical to find an author that’s also an artist and does their own illustrations. My unique drawing style, fun relatable characters and humor throughout the story make my book stand out. I love to draw animals, it’s a lot of fun to make them ‘human’, and this story is filled with wacky and whimsical looking cows. It is a journey of discovery for kids and their caregiver’s while reading this story. The ‘aside’ humor for adults makes reading Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow a welcome addition to every children’s library.

Ferrante: Why did you choose to write about a cow instead of a child or any other animal? What challenges did this raise?

Barbera: I chose cows because of the spots. All ‘Prejudice’ needs to fuel it is someone or something that’s different. Spots. No spots. If all the cows couldn’t see, spots wouldn’t be an issue. If one cow couldn’t see, that cow would be different and probably treated differently. Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow is about social prejudice. The biggest challenge created by using cows was figuring out how to overcome the spots to become accepted. I think it’s neatly accomplished and makes for a better story.

Ferrante:  Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow has her own television show on the web. Tell us about this. How is it created? Who performs in it? How often is it aired?

Barbera: Thank you for asking about the upcoming web show! We are launching on YouTube mid August. (Fingers crossed). My wife, Sheri, and I came up with the concept for Sweetles® TV Show (web series) a few years ago. The first idea was to help kids learn about social skills and good behaviors in a fun and wacky way. Think Sesame Street meets Monty Python. It’s evolved into more of a comedy/variety show for the entire family to enjoy. 

The show includes nutsy goofballs (people), silly animation, assorted puppets, music, comedy and a lot of fun! All of that meant learning a whole bunch of new software programs to create and edit video. Plus making, buying or modifying and animating an assortment of puppets and other show characters. Once that was finally accomplished, then we researched how to set up a studio for filming. That took over two years. It’s truly been a labor of love.

We’re currently at the stage of writing the scripts and filming the show! So far, there are four of us writing, performing and filming. The goal is to post Sweetles® TV Show once a week, with a segment just for kids called “A Sweetles Dream®” featuring my children’s book characters including Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow. Even her sister, Sister Mary Catherine: The Holy Cow With a Bad Habit, makes an appearance! It should be a lot of fun.

Ferrante: What your plans for future projects include?

Barbera: I have a number of books in the works in the “A Sweetles Dream®” series. And we’d love to license my characters for products to go with the books. We already have a wonderful Mary Elizabeth puppet that’s ready to go into production. And, if Sweetles® TV Show is a hit, it would be great to bring it to television. 

three random questions

Ferrante: What type of service to others or good deed done for other people do you personally find the most rewarding?

Barbera: It’s Laughter. I try to make as many people laugh as possible. Every single day. There’s nothing more rewarding than to see someone’s face light up, smile and laugh. Especially if they’re tired, sad, lonely or seem depressed. My father-in-law is in an assisted living home, and my wife and I always make a point of getting people there to laugh every time we visit. Laughter is the best medicine.

Ferrante: What is the coldest you have ever been in your life, and what is the hottest?

Coldest?  We used to do Christmas decorating when we lived on the East Coast. Putting up Christmas lights outdoors in New Jersey when it’s 2F (-16C) degrees. “It looks beautiful”, I said, through chattering teeth.

Hottest? I live in Arizona. Even after visiting here for the first time in 1989 when there was record heat of 118 (48C) degrees! We still loved and and still moved here. But, as Frank Sinatra said, “it’s a God forsaken blast furnace!”.

Ferrante: 118F would kill me but 2F is a lovely winter day where I live.

If you could change the ending to any movie you have ever seen, what movie would it be and how would you alter the way it ends?

Barbera: That would have to be ‘Close Encounters of The Third Kind’. The movie ends with Richard Dryfuss leaving his wife and two children behind to go off in a space ship with a bunch of aliens. That’s not right. I would change his character to a bachelor.

Ferrante: I agree. It seemed as though he didn’t give leaving his children a second thought.

Thank you so much, Sal, for your interesting answers. I appreciate the time you put into them. Best of luck with your books and your upcoming web show. Send me a little note when it launches and I will alert my readers. It’s such a unique and gutsy enterprise I wouldn’t want to miss it.

Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow will be reviewed on this blog February 6, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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

Adopting a Fluffy White Kitten, Maybe. Recycled Sundays.

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I have three cats but I’m still a normal person. I’m not a victim of feline reproduction since I’m adamant about neutering. I’m a victim of innocence.

My daughter, my son and I went to buy a sweet white kitten, the fluffy heart-tugging kind they show in toilet paper commercials. It was for my daughter, a cat-aholic if there ever was one. It would be a low maintenance pet and we’d feel good for having saved an animal from euthanasia. Unfortunately, all the ivory colored kiddies were gone. My daughter asked to see a gray female that was caged with the black and white male. The woman in charge met us at the counter with both kittens.

“One for me!” cheered my son.

I protested in vain. The woman promptly dumped both in my arms explaining that they were littermates who hadn’t been separated since birth. A single kitten would be lonely. The pair would play more and be physically and emotionally healthy. The kittens looked up with their huge trusting eyes. My children stared pleadingly. The woman smiled and offered two for the price of one. Ten eyes, waiting. I was a goner.

The black and white kitten we named Patch was the friendliest. He also had ear mites, which required swabbing both cats twice a day for two weeks. There aren’t enough pillows or oven mitts in the world to stave off a panic kitten. My husband and I looked like we’d wrestled with thorn bushes.

They did keep each other company, for almost a year. Then Misty developed into an aloof, “don’t bug me, that’s if you can find me” cat. Patch was constantly rebuffed. In a sickeningly weak moment, I decided to get him another playmate and take the pressure off Misty. I waited until another white kitten was up for adoption.

I made it clear to the children that this was to be my kitten. The white kitten was fluffy and plump. It had one blue eye and one pink. Pink eyed white cats are sometimes deaf. I clapped my hands and made silly noises, but the cat did not respond. It was either hearing-impaired or very dull.

“Look at this one, Mommy,” called my son as he watched the loose kittens through the viewing window.

I was doomed from the first glance. A black and white kitten, one ear up, one ear down, was bouncing sideways across the floor. He stopped to tumble with a tabby, and then tried to crawl up the wall to the window, meowing frantically for attention.

“He’d make a good playmate for Patch,” said my son.

The moment the scruffy little fellow was put in my arms, he twisted around and licked me.

“He’s rather ratty looking,” I protested. “Why is he scratching his ear so much? I hope he doesn’t have ear mites.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said the woman. “We put down any that have ear mites.”

My children’s eyes widened. They looked from me to the kitten in horror. It’s always the eyes that get me.

“We’ll take him,” I sighed.

He didn’t have ear mites but Virgil’s done more than his share of damage and had more than his share of trips to the vet. He gives new meaning to the word pest. He’s also funny and affectionate. Patch and the kids love him. So now, we have three cats, none of them white.

September 9, 1990

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages