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.

Buy link

 

Advertisements

S.T.A.G.S. One Deadly Weekend by M.A. Bennett. Book Review.

S.T.A.G.S. stands for St. Aiden the Great School name for a Saint who made a stag invisible so the hunters couldn’t kill him. I couldn’t decide if it was ironic or deceptive that the school was called S.T.A.G.S. because the halls and rooms were filled with animal heads and the wealthy students participated heavily in a hunting for “sport” culture.

The protagonist, Greer, comes from a modest  background and is one of the targets of the Medievals, upperclass, traditional, anti-technology students who seem to run the school. Inexplicably, Greer receives and invitation, along with two other shunned students, to a weekend at the Medieval leader’s home for “Huntin’ Shootin’ and Fishin”. The wording struck me as odd since tyhese people prided themselves on being upper class and traditional but it may have been a touch of snide subtly directed at the three students being invited.

The three main characters, the bullied ones, we’re likable, understandable, brave and hopeful, the way real teens are. I especially liked Shafeen, an East Indian prince, who gave the villains their real challenge. Greer was well written, naive but smart, courageous but flawed, and mature enough to interest adult readers.

Although the plot was a little predictable, the author kept our suspense. Even though we had a pretty good idea of what the three teenagers would have to overcome, we did not know how this would unfold and whether they would all survive. The tension was built well but the ending went in the expected way. I would’ve preferred a less obvious twist.

While it seems believable and a small group of people could indeed engage in psychopathic behaviour it seems a little far-fetched that so many people were involved and so a large part of the community supported and covered for them. There seemed little purpose for it all.

In spite of my questions, if you’re looking for a suspenseful and scary book, this is a great read. I kept turning those pages long into the night.

Buy link http://a.co/ipBSzyi

Christmasese – Recycled Sundays

The Christmas season is once again upon us. The older I get, the shorter the 11 months in between seem. I could swear I sent my Christmas column off just last month if the calendar didn’t insist differently. The children, though, contend that it has been at least 47 months since the last Christmas.

I need more time to gear myself for writing Christmas cards. Each year I am determined to keep notes for this seasonal greeting and each year I compile a list of special events in our lives, all of which happened in January and February. I’m sure we did something during the next ten months, but for the life of me, I can no longer sort one year from the other. Thank Nikon for cameras. Between photographs and scrapbooks, I am stunned by what I’ve forgotten.

Christmas card notes require a delicate balance. I try to share my gratitude for the year’s joys (without bragging), mention a few learning experiences (without whining), and tell a humorous family anecdote (without alienating my offspring until the next Christmas).

Some friends enjoy creating a long, detailed computer-generated family biography while others prefer the challenge of a handwritten note. I try to write clearly, since I’ve received some eligible notes that threw me for a loop: “Joe had children poo on a lover” or “Joe had Christmas panic odor” turned out to be “Joe had chickenpox all over.”

I try to inquire about the recipient’s family, ever conscious that I must not leave anyone out (including newborns, spoiled pets, and recently acquired significant others), must keep up with the current nicknames and shortened versions, and must wish everyone peace and happiness without drawing attention to unemployment or older children returning to the nest. If the representatives at the United Nations were required to write their familys’ Christmas cards for a decade before being admitted, they would learn true diplomacy.

Another Christmas tradition which requires diplomacy is attending school concerts. It is sometimes difficult to identify when a good belly laugh will be appreciated by the performers and when it will trigger tears. Most children, though, know when to seize the moment.

One unplanned concert gem occurred when the Smurfs were the rage. One class had spent a great deal of imagination and artistic endeavor in preparation. Children stood behind a large, hand-painted mural and stuck sculptured Smurf puppets in the holes. In falsetto, syrupy voices, they sang Chrismurphy songs. Just when the audience was experiencing sweetness overload, the mural fell. It not only expose the puppeteers crouched and crowded in hilarious positions, but ripped the fuzzy blue fellows right off their hands. The audience gasped, unsure whether to laugh or commiserate with the students. Undaunted, the performers kept right on singing, and, several continue to move their hands as though the Smurfs were still there. It was a Smurftastic presentation.

I always love the unexpected, big or small. I remember pumping my littlest child full of antibiotics, vitamins, cough syrup, juice, and TLC so that he could sing in the Christmas concert. For two weeks he had been croaking the words against my admonition to let his throat heal. The special day arrived. Sporting his handsome red tie and dressy clothes, he marched up on the stage, took one look at the audience and seized up. Silently, he mouthed the words, standing as stiff as a candy cane, staring at a man with a video camera.

The cameraman was filming his own daughter in an entirely different role. She wasn’t even mouthing the words. Instead, she concentrated on unraveling the handknit sweater of the child in front of her. This child didn’t notice since he was too busy playing with a partially chewed balloon he had found in his pocket. The only person I could actually hear clearly was the teacher kneeling on the floor in front, performing the actions with exaggerated enthusiasm while the other students stared as though she was speaking an alien language.

Perhaps she was. Christmasese. The language we use at concerts and when writing Christmas cards. The language that gets us through a season of 16 hour days, each with four scheduled events, and the greeting and departure of more people than we encountered during the other 11 months. The language of laughter, tact, and gratitude. The language that, if continued throughout the year, could get us graciously through bouts of chickenpox or Christmas panic odor.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News December 1993

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Changing Focus

Since I’m finding it difficult to complete my own work, I’m going to focus on completing and publishing my novels and picture books in progress. I am going to post only once or twice a week for the next while.

The project I am in the process of uploading to Amazon is a new picture book called Monkey’s 100th Day.

Monkey is excited to learn that today is the 100th day of school. Just as he begins to feel overwhelmed, the teacher surprises him with the best counting activity of all. On his way home, he is proud to be able to use what he has learned in the classroom.

Celebrate with monkey as he explores 100 bricks, marbles, bubbles and more. Each page of 100 items can be clearly counted. There are extra challenges on several pages which require attention to detail. All of monkey’s activities can be copied by students (over several days). The book ends with thirty fun and engaging follow-up extensions for teachers to use with individuals, groups, or the entire class.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Homework – Recycled Sundays

As soon as the soft spring air is filled with sounds of robins seeking mates and feet seeking soccer balls, my children will begin counting the days until summer vacation. The older they get, the more I join in their relief when school is out. No more homework.

It isn’t that there’s too much homework or that it’s too difficult. Homework is just one more source of conflict. We have the typical arguments. “How can you be doing your homework with Brian Adams belting out his tunes three inches from your ear?” I’ll ask.

My daughter responds exactly the same way I did to my parents. “It’s just background music. It helps me concentrate.”

This spring I acquired new ammunition. Two different students did science fair projects on the effects of music on learning. Rock ‘n’ roll is not beneficial. Classics are. So, we’ve worked out a compromise. When the homework requires problem-solving or creating, my daughter listens to Vivaldi. When she’s colouring a map or drawing a graph, it’s Sting.

The second conflict is over where to do homework. I bought her a used school desk. It became too crowded. I gave her my desk. Now it’s equally crowded. I have yet to understand where most of the stuff on her desk came from, what it actually is, and how feathers and bubblegum jokes could possibly relate to homework.

So she works on the kitchen table unless it’s too crowded. Then it could be the couch, the coffee table, or her bed. Oddly, when home work is forgotten on the table it survives spilled milk and slopped lasagna. My bills though, adhere to old pizza sauce. I know if I put a desk in every room she’d still be doing homework on the floor and I still couldn’t find a clean clear space to write a check.

This year my son started having homework. He told me he was doing a research project.

“What on?” I asked.

“The world.”

“Mapping the world?”

“No. Just the world,” said my son.

“But what about it? Languages? Countries? Development? History? Animal distribution? Climates? Natural resources? What?”

“Yeah, that.”

“Honey, that’s impossible. You know the library books called The World Encyclopedia? That’s a project on the world. Narrow it down.”

The next day he said, “Mom I narrowed it down. I’m doing a project on North America.”

“But what about it? Languages? Countries? Development? History? Animal distribution? Climates? Natural resources? What?”

“Canada, United States and Mexico.”

“Honey, that’s still too much.”

Then he pulls out the discussion stopper. “The teacher said I could.” I had as much chance of changing his mind as of climbing the tallest mountain in Canada.

He handed in a project in North America. The teacher liked his information, maps and postage stamps, but she said the topic was too general. No kidding.

I especially enjoy the, “I don’t know” homework. My daughter told me one Wednesday that she was unable to find much information on food in Thunder Bay. She and her group had to present it Friday. This was Wednesday. I wanted to know if she meant food now, in the early 1900s, or at Historical Fort William.

“I don’t know.”

Was she researching a particular ethnic group?

“I don’t know.”

“When did you get this assignment?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

I demanded a guess. “Last week, I think.”

“Last week,” I hissed. “Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

“I don’t know.”

I wrote a groveling letter to the teacher asking for the weekend to bring my daughter to the library. The teacher informed me that the students already had two weeks to do the assignment. My daughter never mentioned that she was having trouble.

I confronted my daughter. “Why did you let this go so long?”

“I don’t know.”

Geography homework is a challenge. Not only does Africa change names and borders with every new leader, but now the former USSR is mutating daily. For her homework, the names need to be translated into French as well. Do you see why I want to pack my bags and head to Timbuktu when my daughter asks what’s the capital of Uganda in French? All I can say is “I don’t know,” turn on my Rolling Stones music and try to find a clean spot to work on my article about Asia.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News Regional Newspaper

May 24, 1992

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Ava’s First Day of Kindergarten by Kristen Weber. Illustrated by Isabel Belmonte. Book Review.

I was happy to receive a copy of this book since my granddaughter is starting school in September. It is written in rhyme which, unfortunately, clunks in spots. Rhyming books also make it more difficult to show and not tell and to evoke emotion.

The tone of the book was light and positive. It has none of the drama or gripping suspense of The Pocket Mommy by Rachel Eugste reviewed  here  on August 27, 2016 http://wp.me/p1OfUU-wz . Neither does it explain all the wondrous things taught in kindergarten like The Best Thing About Kindergarten by Jennifer Lloyd reviewed March 4, 2017 http://wp.me/p1OfUU-2cQ. Instead the author focuses on eating a good breakfast, choosing a dress, riding the bus, and making friends. She practises handwriting on the board (actually printing) does arts and crafts, sings, dances, and plays on the outdoor equipment. The time flies by and at the end of the day she is reluctant to leave.

This is a positive first book about attending kindergarten but probably not the kind of book that would evoke a “read it again.” My granddaughter wasn’t that interested although she is with many other books. It certainly is a safe and encouraging introduction into starting school though.

The artwork is cute and features children of diverse races. My granddaughter wondered why the teacher was the only one singing.

After listening to the book, my granddaughter felt confident and positive about kindergarten which is the point of a book like this. I just wish there had been more of a story. http://a.co/0JPHNGK Buy link.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Brand New Kid by Katie Couric. Illustrated by Markorie Priceman. Book Review.

There are a lot of books written about bullying and exclusion. This one points out that there really is no rational reason for targeting a child. The child, Laszlo, being bullied was new to the town. “His hair was so blonde, it looked almost white. It stuck out all over, it didn’t look right. His lips were bright pink, his eyes very blue. He looked at his feet and he fidgeted too.… His voice booming so loud.” The children decided immediately that he was weird and began to bully him. As a previous teacher, I was shocked that the teacher was so oblivious to what was going on and did not intervene. It is obvious when they pick teams that he is being left out. The bullying even goes as far as tripping him in the lunch room. This goes on for several weeks. I do know that bullies can be sneaky and clever and pull the wool over their parents and teacher’s eyes, but this seemed pretty prevalent and apparent. I expected the teacher to at least attempt to address the situation. I do understand, though, the children’s books need to be focused on children solving the problem and not adults.

One of the students who has been bullying, discovers Laszlo’s mother crying and learns she is thinking of pulling her son from the school. She suddenly has a moment of conscience and invites Lazlo to play. They have loads of fun and Ellie meets his mother who provides them with warm cookies. When the kids at school question her behavior, she explains that he isn’t that different and shares some of her experience. She ends with, “he may look slightly strange, have an accent and stuff, but if you knew him, you’d like him, it wouldn’t be tough.” Suddenly the children switch to being friendly and inclusive.

It feels like too easy of a solution. Ellie, and the other children, would know full well that Laszlo and his family would be very upset about his treatment. The children look and sound like Junior grade students (4 – 6) certainly old enough to understand exactly what they’re doing and the consequences. I thought perhaps this was an older book since public schools put in a great deal of effort to encourage inclusive this and clamp down on bullying. It seemed in this story that the children controlled the school.

It’s an admirable topic and a worthwhile book but just seems a little out of date. (Copyright 2000) I do believe, however, that this topic needs to be visited regularly every year and we must continue to be vigilant about protecting the bullied and educating bullies. Parents need to be vigilant about this as well.

thumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tiny

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

A Fairy AND a Princess – The Very Fairy Princess: A Spooky, Sparkly Halloween by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton. Illustrated by Christine Davenier. Book Review.

 Click here to buy The Very Fairy Princess: A Spooky, Sparkly Halloween

This book is one in a collection of Very Fairy Princess books written by Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. Yes, I already reviewed one of her books, Dumpy to the Rescue, but it was so awful I thought I’d give her another chance.

In this book, she has taken two things that little girls love, fairies and princesses, merged them together and built a business of picture books, music, a television series, and even a writing course for authors. Her books are advertised as a #1 New York Times Best-selling Series. When scanning the list of books, you immediately realized that they are all written to help children in socially difficult situations such as the end of the school year, losing the class pet, and not being chosen to sing the solo.

In this particular story, Gerry, who is a princess with actual fairy wings, uses a white sheet to dress as an angel for Halloween. When her best friend, Delilah, wears a dentist uniform that becomes covered in ketchup, Gerry uses her ingenuity and generosity to save the day. She transforms her sheet into a tooth costume for her friend. Together they morph Gerry into the tooth fairy. The girls win a big box of chocolates for creative teamwork. I love the message that friendship and compassion are more important than looking good.

If the other books are like this one, I think they would be enjoyed by little girls and beneficial to their social development. The story was suspenseful; my granddaughter was quite concerned when Delilah’s costume was ruined just before the parade. The text is longer and the vocabulary is a bit more advanced than I would have expected for the target audience, but with adult assistance shouldn’t be a problem.

The pictures are created with soft pastels with a lot of pink and purple. The one thing I noticed was that in the classroom scenes I could only find one child of color. Perhaps Christine Davenier could be more conscious of diversity in her illustrations.

I will be reviewing other books written by celebrities in January. It will be interesting to see if celebrity authors develop a series of books like Julie Andrews or just a one-shot affair and if they have a message they want to spread.

By the way, this was about as “spooky” as a week old kitten.

thumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tinythumb-up-smile-tiny

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

New Video – The Sense of Smell

This is the script for the video for primary/junior students.

The video is here. https://youtu.be/fLsywvtkWDY

The sense of smell

Did you watch the video on the sense of taste? Then you already know smell is an important part of tasting. But your sense of smell is also important for other reasons.

Your sense of smell can find and identify odors. Odors are things you can smell. There is a big word for this sense – olfaction.

Our sense of smell can keep us safe.

The odor of rotting or moldy food will warn us not to eat it.

Smelling food can help us decide if it is something safe to eat.

A person’s odour can also help doctors treat an illness or injury. Sometimes they can smell an infection.

Our sense of smell can warn us of dangerous gases.

The odour of smoke warns us that a fire is near.

We may not know it, but our sense of smell can also warn us if someone is angry or upset. Their odor will change.

Other people’s odours help us to decide if we want to spend more time with them.

What you eat will change the way you smell to others. You might love the taste of garlic but other people might think it makes you stink.

Every single person smells differently from everybody else. We all have a special odor. If you cover up a baby’s eyes, it will know which person is their mother just from smelling their mother’s skin.

There is a big word for the sense of smell. Olfaction.

Where does olfaction happen? Up inside your nose. There are two patches called olfactory receptors. They work with your brain to figure out smells.

People have a pretty good sense of smell. We have about five or 6 million yellowish cells on our olfactory receptors.

But many animals have a stronger sense of smell than we do.

A rabbit needs to have a good sense of smell to survive. It has about 100 million of those olfactory receptors. This helps them to smell food like wild cabbage and to smell danger like foxes.

Dogs have an amazing sense of smell. A dog has about 220 million olfactory receptors. That is why they make such excellent trackers for finding lost children by using their sense of smell.

Bears have even a much better sense of smell than dogs. That’s why they are so good at hunting food. That is why you should not keep snacks or even soap that has a yummy odour inside your tent when you’re camping. You don’t want to have a night time visit from a hungry bear!

Women and girls have a better sense of smell than men and boys.

Everyone doesn’t like the same smells. Some people are even allergic to certain smells.

Perfume and hairspray can give some people headaches, make their eyes and nose run, or even make it hard for them to breathe. If you are going to be in a crowded place, don’t wear perfume or cologne.

Some places like schools and hospitals have signs that say “scent free zone”. This means you are not allowed to wear strong smells like perfume because it might may someone sick.

People spend a lot of money trying to make themselves smell good to other people but there is no way to tell how others can smell you. However, if you do not want to smell bad, being clean is important.

Brush your teeth after every meal.

Wash your hands carefully after using the toilet or playing outside.

Shower or bathe often with warm water and soap and especially after you have been sweating.

Some people like to put herbs in their bathwater because the smell of vanilla or lavender can be very relaxing.

Smells of nature can make you feel good. Trees and other plants help to clean the air and make it smell healthy. Open your window to give your room a fresh, healthy smell.

Here is a smell experiment you can try. Have someone put a different scent on individual cotton balls by soaking up liquid or rubbing it against a solid. Keep them in separate sealed plastic bags or jars. However, if you are going to use something powdery or small, like a spice, be careful about inhaling it. Only put it in a jar with a top with tiny holes or gauze on top.

You can try vanilla, coffee, chocolate and more. I will give you a list of ideas. You try to figure out the smells or you can have two of each one and match them up. Make itsure you don’t look. Wear a blindfold.

Things can happen that makes our sense of smell weaken.

People lose much of their sense of smell when they get old and when they have certain illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease.

Head injuries can damage your sense of smell. Be sure to wear a proper helmet when playing risky sports.

You might not be able to smell very well if you have a cold. But it will return when you feel better.

Allergies, just like colds, can make it hard to smell odours.

Smoking will really damage your sense of smell.

Take care of your sense of smell and it will help to take care of you.

Ideas for Your Experiment

vanilla, coffee, chocolate, lavender, spices, dish soap, shampoo, garlic, onion, herbs, vinegar, pickle juice, ketchup, fruit peelings, sawdust or wood chips, a flower, cut grass, baby powder, cornstarch, pine needles, hay, candy, perfume, toothpaste, wet teabag, icing sugar, lemon juice, lime juice, soy sauce, butter, pepper, salt, soil.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

My Videos for Kids, Parents and Teachers on Youtube Bonnie0904

https://www.youtube.com/user/Bonnie0904

Preschool to Kindergarten – counting to 5 for teachers and parents- Counting to 3 on the Cheap

Preschool to Kindergarten – counting to 5 for teachers and parents – Counting to 5 on the Cheap

Preschool to Grade 1 – counting for children – Sing to Ten and Down Again

Preschool to Grade 1 – counting, number recognition ideas for teachers and parents- Play and Learn with Number Mats

Preschool to Grade 1 – physical activity & more for children – Come On. Let’s Play.

Kindergarten – numbers, shapes, counting for children- Do You Believe in Fairies (not narrated)

Preschool to Grade 2 – classification of animals & more for teachers and parents – Educational Play with Animal Puzzle Mats

Kindergarten to Grade 3 – animal rescue, fractured folktale for children – The Gingerbread Man

Kindergarten to Grade 3 – (book read aloud) – focussing on the task at  hand, nutrition for children – Never Send Callie

Grade 1 to 3 – sound, a balanced life, problem solving – Too Quiet, Too Noisy 

Grade 1 – mixing paint colours – Mixing Colours

Grade 1 to 3 – human body for children – The Fascinating Sense of Taste

Grade 1 to 3 – human body for children – The Sense of Smell

(The other senses will be coming soon.)

Grade 1 to 2 – opposites for children – Opposites #1

Grade 1 to 2 – opposites for children – Opposites #2

Grade 1 to 3 – animal rescue, fractured folktale for children – Three Little Pigs are Rescued

Grade 1 to 3 – (book read aloud) worrying – Then the Tooth Fairy Won’t Come

Grade 1 to 3 – traditional fairytale with legos & graphics for children – The Snow Queen

Grade 2 to 4 -(book read aloud) gratitude brings happiness – Rayne Shines

Grade 2 to 4 – fractured fairytale told in rhyme with fashion dolls for children – The Real Princess (The Princess and the Pea)

If you would like me to create a video on a specific topic for children aged 1- 10, please leave a comment.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages