They’re Recycling Aliens, Sequel to Ants in Space by G J Griffiths. Book Review.

The first thing that struck me about this book was the amazing illustrations. The second thing was that the author began the story by writing in the passive verb tense. Action stories, and I assume this is one, should always be written using active verbs. You want the reader to feel that the story is alive and present. This continues throughout the book and noticeably slows the pace.

The gist of the story is that ant sized aliens have come to earth to harvest Teflon from landfill site for use on their home planet. The children decide to join them for an adventure. They are shrunk down to ant size and flow into the home planet. Unfortunately, it is under attack. Children who like aliens, Star Wars, Minecraft, and spacecrafts will enjoy this story.

The writing is charming albeit a little wordy. His description of the toddler coloring is both humorous and endearing. The book is mostly text with the occasional full-page colored illustration. I found it a little confusing to see the illustrations before I had read the relevant text and would recommend that several of the pictures be moved to later pages.

I love that fact that the little girl, dressed as the Princess, introduces the concept of kindness as an antidote to war. Her speech is inspiring and wise.  She also spoke about caring for the planet instead of destroying it and moving on. (Ironic since earthlings are determined to destroy earth.)

The plot is suited to children around eight-years-old but the vocabulary and scientific concepts are much higher. This book might be best shared by a parent with his or her child.

I was given a free e-book copy in exchange for honest review.

Buy link They’re Recycling Aliens: Return to Antanesta (Kweezy Caploza Tales Book 2)

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

1 2 3 Versus A B C by Mike Boldt.

 

This silly book begins with the number one saying, “Hello! I’m so glad you chose to read this book about numbers!” Traveling in the other direction, the capital A says, “Hi! I’m so happy you chose to read this book about letters.”

What begins with a friendly disagreement quickly draws in the entire alphabet and the numbers up to 26 as well as an alligator, two bears, three cars, four dinosaurs, etc. (There is no explanation for why the alligator is wearing a cowboy hat, thick black rimmed glasses, a striped tie, and carrying a briefcase.) The book gets zanier when the named animals interact with each other. Monkeys juggle oranges and ties while lions try to put together a jigsaw puzzle assisted by koala bears. Wolves playing violins ride unicycles. It is a fast paced book with expressive illustrations.

At the end, there is a double page spread of the numbers from 1 to 26 and the letters from A to Z with the occasional character tucked in between. The letter A and the number one shake hands and agree to call it a day. They walk off arm in arm. They stop, mouths agape, when a raspberry looking blob says, “Umm… Hello? I’m a little lost. I’m supposed to be in a book about colors.”

What a great jumping off point for a child or a class to make their own book.

Children between the ages of two and four often confuse numbers and letters. If they are ready, this book would help them to understand that numbers and letters serve different purposes. After reading through the book, it would be best to go back and focus on the letters second time. Then on the third read through, focus on the numbers.

Counting and alphabetizing are ways we bring order to our world. Basically, they are a type of categorization. Show your child how numbers and letters can help them organize.

You can carry this through into sorting items in the house, first by number, then by beginning letter, and lastly by color. Buttons are great for this. I recommend you do one type of sorting per day.

Here are some examples.

 

Expand into:

There’s more:

weight

texture

sound when dropped into a can

float or sink

stackable or not

expensive or cheap

used (recycled) or unused (new)

Can you spin it like a top?

Can you play tiddlywinks or pogs with it?

It’s only as limited as your imagination.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A B C I Like Me! by Nancy Carlson. Book Review.

The alphabet is not the focus of this book. It is basically about seeing ourselves in a positive light. An anthropomorphic pig accompanied by a mouse and a frog (oddly the only one not wearing clothes) goes through the alphabet reciting something wonderful about herself. For example, “I am Awesome, Brave, and Cheerful. I have big Dreams.”

The pictures are brightly colored and fill most of the page with a simple phrase or sentence below. Gigantic smiles are plastered on everyone’s face.

Most of the things the pig mentions are attainable by preschoolers. They would enjoy connecting with the pig’s abilities. It might be fun to make a follow-up book of the child’s interests, talents, and quality. Inevitably, some would be the same but, with an adult’s help, some should be unique to the child. For example, B could be for building wonderful block towers, D could be for love to dance, and L could be for listen well to a story.

The book is just long enough for a toddler’s attention span. This would be a great book for a child who tends to self criticize, worry, or compare himself unfavorably to peers or friends.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Giving Away 3 Paperback copies of Action Alphabet

Opens for entries on May 15, 2017

 Availability: 3 copies available

Giveaway dates: May 15 – May 23, 2017

PARENTS: This book is written for kids who don’t like to sit still and just listen. It employs multiple learning styles. Kids will touch, move, repeat, play-act, and observe using rhythm and rhyme. It can be read as prose or chanted to the rhythm of the military cadence of “I Don’t Know But I’ve Been Told.” Don’t be surprised if you hear your children chanting their favorite parts independently. KEEP IT FUN AND ACTIVE and they will come back for more.

TEACHERS: Project this onto your smart board and use it for your exercise break! It makes a great energizer. Learning while moving is a double-header. Children of a variety of backgrounds and abilities are included.

Video with sample pages and examples of the chant/song https://youtu.be/LiaYDy3f1Sw

Come On, Let’s Play.

 

Whenever it is too cold or wet to go outside, children inevitably spend more time in front of screens. They don’t have to be passive watchers. Turn on my new video, Come On, Let’s Play and encourage them to participate. Make sure they have room to MOVE. Using their imagination and their bodies, they will stretch, hop, thump, swing, twirl, search, slide, point, read, stir, roll a ball, and splash. They will also enjoy rapping along.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

New Alphabet Book Using Active Learning – Action Alphabet

New Release


PARENTS: This book is written for kids who don’t like to sit still and just listen. It employs multiple learning styles. Kids will touch, move, repeat, play-act, and observe using rhythm and rhyme. It can be read as prose or chanted to the rhythm of the military cadence of “I Don’t Know But I’ve Been Told.” Don’t be surprised if you hear your children chanting their favorite parts independently. KEEP IT FUN AND ACTIVE and they will come back for more.

TEACHERS: Project this onto your smart board and use it for your exercise break! Learning while moving is a double-header. Children of a variety of backgrounds and abilities are included.

Available in print. Ebook soon to follow.

Action Alphabet buy link

Video about book. Has participatory component for kids.  https://youtu.be/LiaYDy3f1Sw

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel. Book review.

This is a humorous alphabet book which actually goes through the letters several times. The first thing you notice is that there are two fake bites out of the book that go completely through the cover and pages in the middle.

When you open the cover, it has a list of words for ate or destroyed such as ate, bit through, chewed, dined on, engulfed, and so on. It ends with, “What a bad kitty.”

A fun followup with a class or child (over eight years of age) would be to pick a common action word for their pet, such as play, or person, such as say, and create a list like the “ate” list inside the cover. If you get stuck, use google or word to find synonyms.  For example:

Play: act, bounce, caper, dally, entertain, fiddle…

Say: announce, bellow, converse…

Turn the page and you see dirty footprints clawed furniture and broken items scattered around the living room. There is also a doodle on the wall of an angry cat and the cat’s tail is disappearing out of sight.

Then the story begins, “She wasn’t always a bad Kitty.” It goes through the alphabet of food the author tried to give the kitty when she ran out of cat food. Basically the alphabet is vegetables such as asparagus, beats, cauliflower, dill, eggplants and so on. On each page the cat makes a horrific sound and face in response to the beans vegetables and spices. I am not crazy about this section. It’s hard enough to get kids to like healthy food when they are bombarded with advertisements for unhealthy food without denigrating it in their reading. Explain carefully that cats have a strong hunting instinct and are carnivores.

At this point kitty becomes bad and begins to destroy the house in alphabetical order. “She ate my homework. Bit grandma. Clawed the curtains. Devoured my new book.” And so on.

When the author returns with new cat food, listed in alphabetical order again, the cat experiences joy and hunger at the offered entrées. They are “an assortment of anchovies, buffalo burritos, chicken cheesecake, a donkey named Dave, elephant eggs, fried rice, etc. This would be acceptable if the illustration didn’t actually show a dead buffalo wrapped in a burrito or a dead lizard wrapped in lasagna. My granddaughter and I found these pictures disturbing and disgusting.

At this point the kitty decides to be good again. He “Apologized to grandma. Bought me new toys. Cleaned her cat box. Drove me to school.” Etc. These pictures are very funny.

In the end the author tries to reward the kitty by bringing a wonky looking dog into the home and saying, “You can go to the park together and you can share your food with him.” At this point the kitty makes that angry face again.

Children can have fun imagining or listing destructive actions the cat engaged in next. Or, things he did to the dog (avoiding extremes). A for ate the dogs treats. B for hid the dog’s bones.  C for carried away his ball. Etc.

This is an hilarious and inventive book that will engage readers. I have qualms about reaction to healthy food (for people) and the whole animals in the cat’s food but, other than that, it’s a fun book for children who are ready for higher level alphabet books.

Click on the cover for more information or to buy the book.

        

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A is for Anaconda: A Rainforest Alphabet by Anthony D. Fredericks. Illustrated by Laura Regan.

This is not an alphabet book for preschool or kindergarten children. In fact, calling it an alphabet book could be misleading. It is, in fact, an extensive resource book for information about rainforests. For example, a is for anaconda. Most letters receive a two-page spread. The detailed and realistic illustration of the anaconda fills one page and two thirds of the other. A four-line rhyme is imposed on the picture. It reads:

A is for Anaconda,
its size – a scary feature,
It swims and slips through rivers deep,
and eats most any creature.

For such a short little poem, it packs a lot of punch.

But that is just the beginning. a text bar down the side of the page explains how the anaconda is the longest snake in the world. It tells us that anacondas belong to a group of snakes known as constructors and relates in detail how they kill. Then it adds a little tidbit adding that A also stands for Australia, home to some of the most distinctive rainforest animals and plants in the world.

The letters are represented as follows:
B is for Brazil and bromeliads (plants).
C is for canopy and chicle (a gum).
D is for dispensers. (I bet you never saw that coming.) It is also for deforestation.
E is for epiphytes (a plant) and endangered.

And so on.

It is great to see an entire two-page spread dedicated to the medicines we have received from rainforests and could receive in the future , if there’s anything left. Also included are the Yanomamo people. The last page is the most powerful.

Z is for the number zero.
I hope you’ll understand –
it’s all the species that are left,
if we don’t preserve this land.

It states such facts as “The number of fish species in the Amazon exceeds the number in the entire Atlantic Ocean.” And finishing off with, “By some estimates at least one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second of every day.”

The last text before the ending bullets and answers to questions reads, “Some experts estimate that more than 130 plant, animal, and insect species are lost every single day due to rainforest deforestation (that’s about 50,000 species a year)! If deforestation continues at current rates, some scientists figure that nearly 80 to 90% of tropical rain forest ecosystems may be destroyed within the next 25 years.” (published in 2009)

Click on the picture to buy the book.

It is unfortunate that it doesn’t cite the biggest contributing problem – the massive intake of meat by an exploding population. According to my research, more than half of deforestation is done to create cattle ranches or, more often, to grow food to feed farm animals. The worst part is, the land can only sustain this for a few years and then they must move on leaving decimation behind them.

The fact “if deforestation continues at current rates” is misleading. The population of earth is presently at 7.5 billion people. Every day, meat producers are expanding their market into new countries and cultures. Because of this, and other more minor factors, the rate of deforestation of rainforests is increasing. Environmentalists and human rights advocates who have opposed cattle ranchers and big corporations have been murdered. Fewer people are willing to speak out. As a result, we will continue to the loose potential cures, trees that provide clean air, unique and wonderful animals, and stunningly beautiful ecosystems. For more information on this, watch the documentary Cowspiracy.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

An Unexpectedly Expensive Dog – What Pete Ate by Maira Kalman. Book Review.

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Click here to buy What Pete Ate from A to Z

Pete is a yellow dog who can’t stop eating everything he comes across. The book is based on an actual pet and his naughty eating habit. After the introduction, the author goes through the alphabet listing things the dog has consumed. It begins with cousin Rocky’s accordion. “All of it.” The accompanying picture shows the dogs torso shaped like the bellows of the accordion.

Some letters have alliteration to reinforce the sound. For example under B: “He ate a bouncing ball that belonged to uncle Bennie’s dog Buster. Buster is no bargain. He barks all the time. But still… Bennie lived in a beautiful room that had a Bed, Book, Box, and a Bottle of water.”

The author speaks directly to the reader to humorous effect. “He did not eat the cake from Olga, or the creamy cupcake. NO! He ate my CAMERA!! I love to take pictures. Look.” Then the author shares two silly pictures with us.

The typeset is an unusual mix of capitals and lowercase letters, for example, DoReen and accoRDion. It also seems to be a mixture of fonts. It gives the feeling of old advertisements. A child would have to be an experienced reader to handle this. There is some interesting vocabulary, such as gusto, fez, Morocco, continent, kazoo, and some very odd names.

The pictures are unusual too. At times they are off scale with distorted perspectives. Pages might hold a single item such as a key or be filled with extra notations and characters. It has the feeling of a book from the 40s even though it was published in 2001.

Although it is an alphabet book, I think a post kindergarten child would enjoy this the most.

After you read this book, it might be fun to go around the house with your child picking out things Pete might eat and saying what letter it begins with.

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Click on the item for more information.

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)