Who Can Fix It? Written and illustrated by Leslie Ann MacKeen. Book Review.

The premise of the story is very clever. Jeremiah T. Fitz drives his crank up car every Sunday for dinner with his mother. When his car breaks down a series of animals offer suggestions on how to fix it. The ideas are humorous and clever.

The kangaroo suggests he check the jumper cable. The elephant suggests he check for a peanut in the trunk. The camel suggests he check for water. Some are a bit of a stretch such as the gorilla suggesting he hang around until Fitz thinks of an idea or the bear suggesting he scare the problem out of the car.

I really enjoyed the misinterpretations such as skipping rope with the jumper cable and removing his pants belt to fan the car. I think the book would have been better if there were fewer animals and the suggestions were expanded a little more.

The misunderstandings in this picture book remind me of the old Amelia Bedelia books. However, the vocabulary and situational humour suits older children since not many picture book readers would know much about radiators, fan belts, oil tanks and spark plugs. This would be a delight to a child who is informed and interested in cars. Although, I am not sure they would be satisfied with the idea that the spiders web stopped the motor from working.

The illustrations are bright and often humorous. I wonder, though, if it might interest children more to use a contemporary vehicle and driver. At times, the text was a bit of a tongue twister and I think simplifying the names would make it easier for a child to read.

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Silly Scientists Take a Tip-Toe with the Tadpoles by Lindsey Craig. Illustrated by Ying Hui Tan. Book Review.

The silly scientists are a bizarre variety of aliens. Their mission is to ensure Taddy the tadpole hatches from an egg, develops into a tadpole, and then into a frog.

 

This is a wild and fantastical book for children who enjoy extensive zany detail while they learn a little about animals. The pages are fairly bursting with vivid characters. There are seven brightly colored aliens, numerous pond plants and creatures, and ten tadpoles. Younger children might find the illustrations a bit challenging but those that enjoy examining pages with a lot of content will be satisfied.

 

Although the story is fiction, there are text boxes that explain, in rhyme, the life of a tadpole. The last two pages explain metamorphosis, producers, consumers, and decomposers.

 

There are moments of humour in the book. Many readers will enjoy the mixture of fact, storyline, and silliness.

 

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Little Pencil Finds His Forever Friends: A Rhyming Pencil Grip Picture Book by Christine Calabrese. Illustrated by Maria Victoria Flores. Book review.

I always feel a bit of trepidation when I get a rhyming book to review. It is so difficult to write well and too many people attempt it who have  otherwise never written in rhyme since grade school. Happily, Calabrese succeeds with this charming little story.

The pencil is sad because everyone else seems to have a job. The photographed hands of a small child use a ruler, clay, scissors, blocks and more while the pencil sobs feeling left out.

Variations on this refrain are repeated throughout the book:

Poor little pencil

Sobbed, “Boo-hoo hoo.

Poor little pencil

Had nothing to do!”

The author varies the verb sobbed exposing children to some interesting synonyms.

At the end, the child picks up the pencil and begins to write. We learn the correct way to hold a pencil if you are a right-handed person or a lefty.

The illustrations are an engaging combination of photographed hands and illustrated tools all with expressive faces. The colors are bright and engaging. The book is a large 8 x 10 so all children can clearly see the proper way to hold the pencil.

As a former teacher, I know how difficult it is to change a child’s awkward grip on a pencil once it has become habit. As soon as your child can hold a crayon, marker, or pencil, be sure their grip is correct. Not only does it help with letter formation but it is less fatiguing. This book is a great way to introduce the proper method with less conflict.

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Brandon Makes Jiǎo Zi (餃子) by Eugenia Chu. Book Review.

It is great to see more books bridging different cultures.

Eugenia Chu has written a picture book about Brandon, a boy of Chinese heritage, who makes a heritage food with his grandmother and then gives it his own special touch. Brandon is a gleeful and active little boy who loves working with his grandmother in the kitchen. Children of all ethnicities will be late to the creation of goodies with a grandparent.

The book begins with a preface that explains the Chinese alphabet and characters and the sounds they make. It also shows the importance of tone in changing the meaning of a word. Throughout the story, there are Chinese care characters and translations for Mandarin words important to the story. The story ends with the glossary of Mandarin words and the numbers from 1 to 10.

The writing itself could use some tightening. For example the author has a habit of slowing down the text with phrases like “started to”. The illustrations are very simple pencil crayon drawings done in a child-like style.

This book would be of interest parents, teachers, and children, interested in multiculturalism. The author also has audio available for those who would like to check the pronunciation.

The Trick to Being Fearless by Sally Huss. Book Review.

Everyone has fears. The way adults cope with fears and the way children cope is different. The approach in this book seems feasible for young children and could be a useful tool for them to cope on their own.

The little boy in the story, Josiah, “was afraid of everything, but mostly he was afraid of being alone.“ He sees a speaker on television and adopts the concept of swallowing fearful thoughts. The picture book go step-by-step through Josiah’s increasing empowerment as he uses this technique.

It wouldn’t hurt to try the strategy with a child who is afraid of the dark or being alone or has other harmless fears.

The illustrations are cartoonish and effective. The text started out taut and intriguing. However I felt parts were a bit too long and some of the text was too mature for young children who would benefit from this book. For example “who had been assigned the duty of us sitting with Josiah, he saw a program that aroused his interest.”

With adult assistance, fearful children might benefit from this story. At the very least, it is a good launching point for discussion and the development of a coping strategy.

Recycled Sundays – Footwear Has a Life of Its Own

People have often entertained the idea that inanimate objects can move, talk, and adventure. Jim Hansen was a marvel at bringing toys, plants and even shapes to life. Disney saw nothing wrong with making flowers, trees, and crockery sing and dance.

TVOntario runs a children show called Readalong. The star has a crush on a pink shoe. But, no need to arrange therapy, since he is a boot. This is no surprise to me. Considering all the anthropomorphism we indulge in, footwear has always seemed the most likely to me to live a life of its own.

I remember the year my son had to share a locker with another classmate at school. By the third week of September, his left shoe had walked away. It was not in any of the three full coffin-sized lost and found boxes, the mud rooms, the classrooms, the office, or the schoolyard. I know. We searched.

We bought him a new pair of shoes.

I think it is unfair that we have to buy shoes in pairs. Why is that? We don’t have to replace all four tires when one is ruined. I felt even stronger about this when my son lost another shoe before Christmas, the left one again. Talk about two left feet.

We bought him a new pair of shoes.

In April, he informed me that there was a “small” hole in one of his shoes. I insisted that it needed to last to the end of the year. Three pairs of indoor school shoes in one year would be outrageous.

A few days later, he told me the hole was beginning to be embarrassing. I told him to bring them home so that I could check them. The sole had pulled away from the shoe for at least 5 cm. Half of his foot stuck out the front. I’d hate to see what he considered a “big” hole.

We bought him a new pair of shoes.

It seems that the constant replacing of a single shoe with a new pair is not just a Canadian phenomenon. My friend, Yuko, told me that Japanese children are just as hard on their shoes, especially when they play the traditional game of geta toss. Getas are sandal-like shoes that people wore with kimonos. Children would play a game whereby they kick one shoe each into the air, much like how we toss a coin. If the geta landed right side up it meant one decision, if it landed right side down it meant another.

Yuko, being a modern girl, wore running shoes just like Canadian children do. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t kick them in the air in a rousing game with her friends. Unfortunately, modern Japanese children have a bigger concern then those who wore kimonos and getas — heavy traffic. Her kick was a bit off-center and the shoe landed in the street  just in the right spot to be crushed by a car. That was one air pump shoe with no more air in it!

They bought her a new pair.

I don’t think they were as upset as I was when my son came home in June of that same year with only one shoe, the left one this time. Ha ha, I thought. I save the right one from the second pair. They may not match exactly, but they’re good enough to play outside in. Unfortunately, they were an entire size different. They would probably make him run in circles just like his mother.

We bought him a new pair.

Somewhere, out there, two like-new left shoes have met up with all the other missing shoes and are high-stepping in the dance of freedom. They’ve join with the partners of all the shoes scattered on the sides of the highway in mockery of those mothers on the way to the shoe store.

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

March 7, 1993

NEW NOTE: This story is the inspiration for my upcoming picture book Geta Toss.

My Favorite Fifteen Fiction Picture Books I Reviewed in 2017

I’ve read so many wonderful picture books this year that it was impossible for me to shorten the list of favorites any further than fifteen. Click on the title to go to the review.

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

Dust flowers by Lisa Gammon Olson. Illustrated by Kyle Olson. Book review. Tales from American Herstory Series.

This lovely and engaging picture book tells the story of the dust bowl era in the United States through the eyes of a little girl. Her grandmother tells her stories of the beauty of the land before the drought. The little girl has no memory of it and barely remembers her mother ever wearing a smile.

One day the girl finds a little green shoot and secretly waters it until it until it blooms into a gorgeous vine of morning glories. When her mother sees it, she smiles and dances with joy with her daughter. Although another dust storm is rising, they also hear the sound of thunder foretelling the coming end of the drought.

The pictures are soft, expressive watercolour hinting at dust without being overly oppressive. The story is told with tact, beauty, hope, and charm. I did, however find the occasional fully capitalize the word distracting and did not understand its purpose. This wonderful book would be a great addition to any classroom shelf or child’s personal book collection.

Buy link http://a.co/4ldRov2

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

New Free Video – Full Second Edition of Rayne Shines

The entire text of my book, Rayne Shines, is now available as a free video on YouTube. Check it out along with other read aloud books, stories, and educational activities on my family safe site.

Rayne is bored with life until a new family moves in next door. Why do they look so happy? Rayne wants to know their secret. Rayne Shines is a humorous and thought-provoking picture book for ages 5-8. This second edition features humans instead of frogs and an updated story.

Buy link http://a.co/1U0K9S0

The First Day of Winter by Denise Fleming. Book Review.

Tomorrow is the first day of winter!

This is somewhat of a counting book. It took me a couple of pages to realize it was supposed to be sung to the tune of “On the First Day of Christmas”. That definitely made it more interesting. The text is basically the song with different gifts. These are things a child gives to a snowman such as twigs, pinecones, scarves, and a red cap with a gold snap. Unfortunately, I felt the text needed more. It could be fun trying to predict what kinds of things were given to the snowman but I thought it could’ve been more innovative or humorous.

The illustrations are great. I suspect Denise Fleming is an illustrator first and an author second. The full double-page spreads are well done but the perspective on some of them is like having a child hold a toy too close to your eyes.

This would be a fun book to use with their class, or your child, as a way to fuel writing their own words to the tune of “On the First Day of Christmas”. They could choose a holiday, such as Easter or Valentine’s Day. Or they could choose a being instead of the snowman, such as a cat or a spaceman.

Buy link http://a.co/8zclhKA

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Click on the covers for more info or to buy the book.