Inspiring Courage, Love, and Determination – Making Manna by Eric Lotke. Book Review.

Click here to buy Making Manna This is now the correct link. The price is $15.00 paperback.

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I thought I would read a chapter of Making Manna before sleeping but thirteen chapters later I was reluctant to close the book. It was only my aching eyes that made me stop. Eric Lotke is a master writer of character and situation. Not only do you care for these people, but you cringe and curse and cheer as they struggle through overwhelming events. This book is based on Lotke’s own experiences with the justice system and people struggling to survive in a cold, unfair, and prejudiced environment.

Making Manna opens with the story of Libby, a 14-year-old victim of sexual abuse by her father. It begins with the birth of her incestuously conceived baby. This is not the first time in the novel you will feel angry and frustrated at contemptuous behavior. But, equally throughout the book, you will be amazed and gladdened at the extreme kindness of strangers and mere acquaintances. Libby is but a child when she is forced out into the world with a newborn in her hands. We may not make the same choices as this fresh from the farm teenager but we cannot help but be in awe of her motherly love and determination. The story of her son, Angel, is bittersweet as well.

No one is an island, and so Libby finds support and love with another single mother, Sheila, and her daughter, Monet. However, things become frightening when the police virtually destroy their apartment in search of drugs. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys, just like in real life. The bonds these friends form are unbreakable and through this loyalty, hope survives.

Lotke writes in such a fashion that the reader loses herself in the story. She is no longer engaging with print on paper but living alongside real, admirable, and compelling characters. This is a page turner in a different sense. Yes there is enormous suspense as to how these people are going to survive in the face of such cruel and unwarranted adversity. But more than that, we want them to succeed. We want them to be happy. We want Angel to get the girl.

I cannot recommend this amazing story strongly enough.

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Eric Lotke will be interviewed on this blog April 12, 2017.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Determined, Funny, & Opinionated: Gianna the Great by Becky Villareal. Book Review.

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Click here to buy Gianna the Great

This is an early chapter book with intermittent, small cartoonish illustrations. I wondered how the author was going to interest children in a story about finding her genealogical roots. But, the first sentence showed me she knew her target audience. It begins, “I was nosey.” The top half of the page shows a girl with brown pigtails, round red-framed glasses, pencil in her hand, her eyebrows raised, her mouth open, and her finger pensively touching her cheek.

The little girl, Gianna, tells the story in first person. She is a funny, insistent child with a lot of spark. Her thoughts are often judgmental, even snide, but she treats others with respect. I think the character is realistic and honest.

The story follows Gianna as she develops an interest in her family tree. We learn that there is no father’s name on her birth record which her mother dismisses as a mistake. Her teacher finds her mother’s baptism certificate and explains that in Mexico that is when children receive their full name. He also shows her a border crossing record and a picture of Gianna’s grandmother.

When Gianna shows the documents to her mother, her mother cries with happiness. The story ends with Gianna saying, “I can find out more Mama! Lots more!”

This would be a fabulous book to introduce to a child who is going to research her family tree. It reminds us that immigrants often lose contact with their family and their roots. Whether a child’s family crossed the border from Mexico into the United States, flew in as a refugee of war, or sailed over the ocean decades ago for a better life, there was always loss along with the gain.

Even if a family has been living in the same country for several generations, it is surprising how few children, and even adults, don’t know their grandmother’s maiden name or their family’s roots. When I researched my family tree in the 1980s, everything was done by mail (for a price) or by searching through books and microfiche. Now, entire lineages are available for free online as well as immigration documents, ships’ passenger lists, birth and death certificates, and more. You would have to help your child understand the difference between an original or primary document, a secondary source, and indirect evidence.

Although this is a niche book, it serves its purpose well. An adult could read it to a child in twenty minutes. Or, a child with third grade reading skills could manage it on their own.

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Click here to get FREE family tree charts to print for your child.

Choose from 2 to 5 generations, adoptive family, birth and adoptive family, with a wide variety of backgrounds, in color or black and white.

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The author was interviewed on this blog, January 4, 2017.

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

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

 

The Pocket Mommy by Rachel Eugster. Illustrated by Tom Goldsmiths. Book Review.

For those of you preparing little ones for school, here’s an extra book review that just might interest you.

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 Click here to buy The Pocket Mommy

This is a lovely little book to give to a kindergarten child who is experiencing separation anxiety. Samuel tells his mother, “Mommy, I hate it when you leave me at school. I wish you were the tiniest mommy in the world, so I could keep you in my pocket all day.” His mommy pretends to slip a tiny mommy into his pocket. When the pocket mommy becomes real, Samuel is happy to have her company and assistance. But she soon starts to be a problem and by the end of the day, Samuel is glad to see her go. On the way home with his actual mother, he says, “Maybe I just need you to do your mommying at home.”

I really like the idea of a pocket mommy. I see nothing wrong with giving a picture of yourself to your child, or drawing a little mommy together that she can keep in her pocket. After a few days of using the mommy, this should be a great book to read and share a laugh with your child.

The illustrations are all double-page spreads with words imposed on a background. They’re black outline with watercolor, giving the book a gentle, intimate feeling.

I can see why this book has been so well received.

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Make your own pocket mommy. Take a photo of your entire body. Have it developed or print it on medium heavy stock paper. Cut it out and give it to your child.

Cafe Press118784649-13816863Kids’ Clothes, School Supplies

 

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Shop Amazon – Parents and teachers, find your school supply lists in one place

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Shop Handmade – School supplies

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

James Mayhew. Who Wants a Dragon? Illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner. Book Review.

This is a rhyming toddler book. The question, “Who wants a Dragon?” Is repeated several times in the book. The rhyming scheme holds throughout and it reads well aloud.

The witch doesn’t want him. Neither does the knight, Princess, King or Queen, or fairy. The sad, rejected Dragon is finally loved by his mommy.

The illustrations are bright, cute, and expressive. However, the Dragon was a red, roly-poly, polkadotted little charmer with a big grin. It made no sense for everyone to be afraid of him. I’m also not sure if giving the child/Dragon the message that the only person who will “love him just right” is his mother. No matter how friendly or sweet or gentle the Dragon is, no one else wants him. This is not a concept I would want to teach a child.

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Moss, Miriam – Don’t Forget I Love You – Illustrated by Anna Currey – Book Review

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Click here to buy Don’t Forget I Love You

This is the story of Billy bear who lives with his mother. He loves his toy stuffed Rabbit so much he does everything with it. He lives with his Mama patiently coax the same to hurry in the morning, washes pars, it is breakfast, get dressed, brush his teeth, and put on his boots and coat. But on the way to nursery school, Billy spills his lunch and they arrived late. Mama drops Billy off and rushes off to work. Heartbroken Billy realizes two things. He can’t find his toy Rabbits and his Mama didn’t say “I love you,” which she always says. Suddenly Mama returns with Rabbit, a hug, and the perfect words,” I forgot to say I love you.”

Working mothers will love this story. It reminds us that we need to be patient with our little ones no matter how hectic our own lives and that the most important thing to our children is our love. As long as a child knows he is loved, he can handle almost anything. Rituals help a child feel secure and nothing is more important than the ritual of saying goodbye in a consistent, reassuring way.

The illustrations by Anna Currey, are in ink and watercolor. They are as soft and warm as the bears themselves.

Highly recommended.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages