Mich and Moose Adventures by Vince Cleghorne. Book Review.

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This 8 by 10 picture book is a humorous take on problem solving and helping others. Mich is a girl and Moose is, well, a moose. They are best friends and love snowy days. At the beginning of the book they show us all the wonderful ways they enjoy winter snow. Note: the child is not dressed for winter. As a northerner,  I snorted at the picture of her with bare legs and no coat or hat making a snow angel. Point out to children that this is not reality and they do have to dress for the weather.

Anyway, Moose and Mich find someone who is not enjoying winter at all. Spinner the spider is unable to stick her web anywhere because everything is icy. Mich and Moose try to attach it to a dozen places, each more zany and imaginative than the last. At this point the author changed the writing style to rhyme. At first I thought this wasn’t necessary but on subsequent reads I realized it adds a sense of fun and adventure to the quest even though some rhymes are a bit of a stretch. At the end, they find the perfect spot for the web.

This book is a  fun journey into silliness but can also be used as a jumping off point to learn about spiders. Where are spiders in the winter? Why don’t children see their webs anywhere?

The illustrations are cheerful and expressive. Some will make children laugh out loud. If you have a  reluctant reader who has a taste for silliness, this is a book that will grab their attention.

Good Morning, Snowplow! by Deborah Bruss. Illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson. Book Review.

 

Buy link http://a.co/d/0IgU5rc

Good Morning Snowplow! is a gently engaging and reassuring picture book about a snow plow operator clearing the streets at night while everyone else sleeps. It has a poetic rhythm with rhyming couplets and smooth cadence.

It begins with a snowplow worker leaving his home. He carries a small lunch box and is accompanied by a doleful looking brown dog. The worker carefully checks his machinery before moving the vehicle and then step by step begins his methodical, important  routine.

The lines are beautifully poetic as the plow breakthrough obstacles.

“Waves of white curl off the blade.

 In its wake, a trail is  laid.”

As someone who has spent a great deal of time driving after dark through snow, I can connect easily with the text, but anyone who has never experienced a northern winter would feel as though they were sitting in the passenger seat.

I especially like that this book draws attention to an overlooked but essential job. Sometimes the snowplow worker is vilified instead of honored for his/her tremendously important work. Children should be taught to appreciate everyone who contributes to the safety and well-being of others.

The illustrations are an ideal match to the text. You can almost reach out and catch a snowflake. The muted colors and a dominant blue portray a silent winter evening perfectly.

I like that when the snowplow worker exited the truck to see what was happening, he kept his dog on a leash. Small details like that are important in children’s books.

One thing that struck me as odd was the necessary use of commas  in parts.

“Goodnight, homes, and goodnight, cars.”

The words and the pictures worked together to slow the pace and give the other world sensation of a night job. Extra commas just seemed awkward.

 All in all, this is a wonderful book to add to a child’s library. A different take on that fierce and fascinating season called winter.

Surviving Northern Ontario Winters – Recycled Sundays

Boy, I’m getting tired of winter. Even the snow bunnies seem to have less sparkle in their colored contacts these days.

I miss walking the most. It doesn’t seem to have the same satisfaction combined with the Northern expedition – hands buried deep in pockets, back curved into a semi-fetal position, parka hoods drawn forward (no wonder polar bears can sneak right up on Inuit hunters), feet shuffling as fast as they can trying to grip the icy sidewalk, and head down against the wind.

I’m also going rather stir crazy. The most common pastime I engage in is “warming up the car”. People seem to try unusual things to break the boredom during the long winter months. They start new hobbies. They learn new games. They attempt new sports. They look at things with an overly negative eye.

I suspect it was midwinter blues that triggered the adverse reaction to the camel on Camel cigarettes. What was going through the minds of the public when they decided the cool humpback smoker had a face like… well, like another body part? I suspect it was the same boredom and long, dark days that recently caused an outcry against Nestle. It seems their palm tree symbol is as suggestive as the addicted camel. Upside down that is. What I want to know is this. Did the woman who complain store packages upside down in the cupboard and stumble upon this nutty resemblance when she went to make cocoa? Or, in the stir crazy mind set of a long winter nights, did she try yoga for the first time and gain a new perspective on fruit trees?

At this time of the year, those of us who are not snowbirds often wonder why we live here. I can’t answer that. I’m still trying to figure out why I bought the same kind of vehicle twice when the first one drove me crazy. Surviving a winter like this one, though, does give us a commonality, a shared trauma as such, much like living through an thunder storm that lasts for months. It also encourages us to take stock of things, like emergency flares and whether job security is worth having to climb through the car hatch because all the doors have frozen shut, again.

Friendly readers often comment on my columns, but the quiz on “Are You a Northerner?” seemed to to hit a responsive chord with many. A few women suggested I could dig into the more feminine aspects of being a Northerner since most of the questions pertained to men. There’s nothing like positive feedback to fuel the engine. So, here are a few more you can add to your list. You know you’re a northern Ontarion when…

  • Sixty percent of the labels on your clothing contain the words “warm to 30 below”.
  • You master walking in high heels on carpeting when you’re 11, tile floors when you’re 12, and snow when you’re 13.
  • All your foot wear is two-tone: black and salt, navy and salt, brown and salt, and red and salt.
  • You sign up for midwinter exercise classes to get you out of the house on those long, dark, depressing winter evenings and then missed the first two because it is too cold to go out, go to the third, and then decide you are too far behind everyone else to continue.
  • You have a sign over your kitchen sink that reads, “You catch ’em, you clean ’em.”
  • Half of your friends have more vowels in their names than consonants.
  • You play on a mix baseball team sponsored by a sports store at which you never shop and a mixed curling team sponsored by a tavern at which you are known by your first name.
  • You sign up for a hockey pool at work and at your favorite bar and feel physically ill when you forget to play your numbers in the lottery.
  • You’ve owned at least one vehicle that had holes hidden below the floor mat through which you could watch the highway flash past.
  • You always pronounce “sauna” correctly.
  • You think there is too much stick handling in hockey.
  • You order your garden seeds, all beginning with the words “Quick Grow” three months before planting.
  • You’ve actually eaten, but more probably drank, a food product made from dandelions.
  • You know the difference between a fiddlehead and a conehead.
  • You know how to put chains on winter tires, even when they’re moving.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, February 13, 1994

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

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.

 
 

Bear Hockey by Jessica Boyd. Illustrated by Maurizio Curto. Book Review.

This adorable 11 x 8″ picture book will be loved by boys and girls alike. A grey squirrel narrates the story which begins, “Good afternoon, sports fans!…It’s so cold that… The pond is frozen!… That means is the perfect time for Bear Hockey!” The squirrel explains that all bears, once a year, “strap on their helmets, lace up their skates, and pick up their hockey sticks” to participate in bear hockey.

The rules are:

  1. You use many pinecones instead of one puck.
  2. You high-five all the players and spectators multiple times before you start playing.
  3. You take frequent, frequent, frequent honey breaks.
  4. When the last pinecone is scored, it’s time for hibernation!

The emphasis throughout the book is on fun and camaraderie.

The bears wear a variety of colored sweatshirts.  Even though the squirrel announces at one point that the teams are tied, it seems there is only one goalie.

The illustrations are wonderful. Not an inch of space is left empty on any page. The text is superimposed on the busy illustrations. Bears of all sizes play together. Smiles are rampant. The pictures gleam with personality. The bears would make precious stuffed toys.

The littlest bear scores the winning goal (I think everybody won).

After all the excitement, the bears “brush their honey-covered teeth and comb their matted fur and snuggle under the covers for a few quiet months of blissful snoozing.” The book ends with a shot of the littlest bear cuddled up with his jersey. His skates, hockey stick, and helmet are at his feet. A picture of the hockey players hangs in his cave.

What a delightful way to remind children that unregulated hockey is supposed to be fun and that relationships matter more than winning. This would be a great gift, especially for a child who gets a little too intense over playing hockey with friends.

Amazon Buy link http://a.co/3ndl9Sp

Buttertart Books https://buttertartbooks.com/

Read the interview with the author here http://wp.me/p1OfUU-2t6.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Late Winter Lottery Hopes. Recycled Sundays.

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I wonder if lottery ticket sales increase in late winter? I know I scan the list of winning digits with more than my usual desperation when the “Where the heck is spring?” blah’s set in. Did they pass a bill in the Senate when I wasn’t looking to add an extra week to winter every year until the entire population of Canada is insane with cabin fever? Those potential million-dollar numbers take on an extra gleam in March.

As I stumble over my ice pocked driveway, trying not to lose control and slide under my vehicle, I imagine walking barefoot over sundrenched beaches. I’d spend my winnings on a luxury liner cruise. Imagine sailing through the waves without the aid of an icebreaker in the lead.

Perhaps my sinking despair, while running the gauntlet of brain bashing roof icicles and ankle busting lumps of brown highway grit, explains my vehemence toward Clearing House Sweepstake envelopes. I snort resentfully at the suggestion to follow the “simple” instructions on how to enter. They go something like this.

Stick the “before February 15” silver circle on the back of the mailing envelope if you are mailing before this date unless you have received this during the month that begins with the letter M or ends with an R. If not stick the “before March 1” golden sticker on the front of the envelope. Paste the coin sticker on the coin voucher. If you are over 60 years of age, paste the golden years square on the order form, but only if you are ordering. If you are ordering more than six magazines, use the bonus page and paste the subscriptions in order of price.

Among the 6000 stickers enclosed, find the hidden picture of a car and stick it upside down on the left corner of the automobile entry form, unless you would prefer a van, in which case stick it to the bottom of your foot and dance the Old Soft Shoe. Do not confuse this sticker page with the information sheets on 42 other prizes.

Scratch off seven out of nine of the silver boxes, three out of four of the gold, and two out of six of the gray, unless your birthday is on an even number date, in which case reverse these instructions. Be sure not to scratch more than two in a row from left to right and three in a row from top to bottom except for the first and last rows, which may be doubled unless you scratch off a “stop here.” Use your left hand only.

Punch out the red dot if you are ordering. Punch out the red and yellow dots if you are ordering on a 14 day trial basis. Punch out the yellow and green dots if you are ordering more than four magazines. Punch out the purple if you are not ordering but would like to remain on our mailing list. Punch out the black if you live North of North Bay, unless your name rhymes with cat or gun. Punch out your boss if he or she is not paying you enough to afford any magazine subscriptions.

By the time I have punched, ripped, and licked, and stuck my way through their simple instructions, I feel they owe me a prize. Then I have to mail my entry. I struggle over ice coated snowbanks and through frozen puddles that give way and drop me into wet pits deep enough to entomb pharaohs. I spur myself on by chanting, “I am on the final list of winning numbers.” I have yet to pick up my convertible or take my Caribbean cruise, but I sure have a great selection of magazines. I wonder if the lottery store is open?

Published first in 1990 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Are You a True Northerner? Recycled Sundays.

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Canada is a country of immigrants. Our families may have immigrated in this century, before Confederation, or during the last ice age, but we all came from somewhere else. Still, it does not take long for this vast, rugged country to make its mark upon a person.

Those who call the North home are no expectation. But, to be a true Northerner, it is not enough just to be a Canadian. We have our own style. The mosquitoes, 30 degree celsius temperature variations, twisting highways, black spruce, rocks and more rocks, and multitude of lakes make a unique mark upon inhabitants.

Whether your family came from another country, another province, or a southern city makes no never mind. If you can say yes to twelve or more of the following statements, you are a true northerner.

  1. You suppress a laugh when American (or Southern Ontario) news broadcasts say their city was paralyzed by three inches of snow and the temperature dropping to twenty below.
  2. You can button, snap and zip while wearing down-filled mittens.
  3. You can blow your nose on a tissue used on two previous outings.
  4. Your yellow wax has nothing to do with floors.
  5. Rock salt and antifreeze are on your weekly shopping list.
  6. You learned to drive a snowmachine before you learned to drive a car.
  7. You can hold your own in an argument over who has the most frostbite scars.
  8. You’ve brewed your own beer and your own wine at least once.
  9. You’ve never owned a car without a block heater.
  10. You call both a two room shanty with an outdoor biffy and a ten room bi-level with two baths “camps.”
  11. There’s more salt on your car than passes through your kitchen in a year.
  12. You have your own opinion about whether beer or tomato juice gets the smell of skunk out of dog fur.
  13. Swerving your car to miss a moose triggers either a hunting story or your favourite recipe.
  14. You don’t know why American’s think we speak differently. Youse guys know that’s pretty dumb, eh?
  15. You know how to remove porcupine quills, fish hooks, leeches and ticks.
  16. You can explain the entire process of ice filtering beer.
  17. You’ve had Chinese fried rice, lasagne, sushi, pizza, pierogies, and wild partridge all at the same meal.
  18. You wear a baseball cap to a hockey game (peak to the front).
  19. You call your spouse “the wife”, “the little woman”, or “the old man.”
  20. You know more than one pizza delivery telephone number by heart and no matter where you live, there’s a donut shop within walking distance.
  21. You’ve camped in rain, hail, lightning, and snow… all on the Labour Day weekend.

If you scored 5 or less, welcome to the north. There’s hope for you yet. Start digging up a part of your backyard for rhubarb.

If you scored 6 to 10, stop dancing on the fringe and go ice fishing. Be sure to wear both sunscreen and a snowsuit. You’ll understand later.

If you scored 11 to 15, you’re a full-fledged northerner. I’ll tell you my best blueberry picking place if you’ll tell me where you get your Saskatoons.

If you scored 16 or higher, you should be running a tourist lodge. Nobody knows the north like you do. You can probably change the oil in your truck when it’s thirty below without getting frostbite. One recommendation, most baseball caps are washable.

January 1993

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

Published Sunday, JANUARY 30, 1994 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

I Want More Power. Recycled Sundays.

 

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You don’t have to be Tool Time Tim to want more power. I usually cringe while using a jigsaw, expecting at any moment to hit a knot and have the tool fly into my face giving me an instant split personality. I hate tacking down chicken wire or plastic tarp with the heavy-duty staple gun. One wrong move and I just know I’ll staple my foot, trapped in place while stray dogs sniff about my pants until my husband comes to rescue me. I can always remember my father’s warning, “Keep away from that. You’ll lose a finger.

Imagine my surprise to discover that, with the right tool, I can enjoy power and keep all my digits. We have a number of cultured shrubs in our yard. For years, I blistered my palms clipping by hand, so sore when I finished that I couldn’t close my fist enough to hold a spoon.

Recently I bought an electric hedge clipper. I mentally classed it with power saws, the tool that cut half my uncle’s leg off. Hating to be intimidated by a gardening instrument, I finally tried it out on a shrub. What a rush! Fast, clean, thorough, and EASY. I trimmed every shrub in the yard. When I started eyeing my neighbor’s shrubs, my husband took away the electric cord. I finally had a glimpse of what Tool Time Tim has been hinting about and why every male in my family put power tools on their Christmas wish list.

Jane, an elderly woman was telling me about her encounter with men’s love of tools, electric and otherwise. Jane is a small, rather frail lady. Her husband (I’ll call him Tom), on the other hand, has increased in size as he’s aged. Unfortunately, he is not a healthy man. One evening, after having a bath, he slipped getting out and fell between the toilet and the tub. Having more size than strength, he was unable to extradite himself. She pulled, he pushed and strained, to no avail. He was wedged tight. Poor Jane was no help at all. They considered calling a neighbor, but Tom was in a highly memorable state of undress and they would have to face these people for the rest of their natural days. They decided it would be best to call in professionals who handle these things all the time and have the right tools for the job.

Jane telephoned fire station and explained the situation. Tom was in no immediate danger, so there was no need to arouse the neighborhood with sirens and such. I can imagine the fireman grunting on the other end of the line. Who cares about sirens? It’s the tools that are important. The fire engine responded quickly, lights flashing and siren wailing. Tom’s apprehension mounted as he envisioned all the neighbors rushing out onto their front lawns. The first thing Tom saw bursting into his bathroom was a uniformed man with an enormous axe. Being in the highly vulnerable position he was in, Tom screamed and his now pumping adrenal provided enough energy to launch him free of the trap. The fire fighter returned his axe to the truck with a sigh.

Lately I’ve been eyeing another friend’s new snow blower. It takes a quarter of the time to clear a driveway and does a better job. Its noisy assault on the deposits of winter seems like a seductive and just revenge. Besides, she’s only lost two fingers. Well, and her thumb. Seriously.

January 1992

                            

Click on the book covers for more information.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

 

The Ice Cave

Due to health problems, I seldom go outside on cold winter days with my little granddaughter. So when I’m babysitting, I try to provide as much stimulation as possible. I’ve used Crazy Forts with my other granddaughters but have been disappointed with the poor connections. The whole thing collapses with the least movement. I decided with my two-year-old granddaughter that I would set up a semi-permanent construction and periodically change its theme. So here’s the first.

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I built a simple box construction and reinforced the joints with masking tape. I also added numerous cross pieces (triangles are much stronger than squares).

Now to make it look like an ice cave. I covered it with a white sheet, to represent snow and ice, hung a paper snowflake and some icicles over the entrance, and created the floor out of an old fluffy white throw. I hung the bat in the back corner and posted a really cool picture of an ice cave on the back wall. I didn’t invest too much time in it as it is only temporary.

An ice cave is nothing without a polar bear, and this one likes to read. I placed a ball of nature items such as a cedar twig, interesting stones, and a pine cone inside. I included a magnifying glass.

I put animal costumes, masks, and hats that she might enjoy wearing in the cave.The snow leopard was a favorite.You can find these (fake) furry animal dress-up hats at the dollar store for three dollars.

When we grew tired of pretend, she made a paper plate polar bear face out of cotton balls and goodly eyes. There are many more winter art activities available on the web.

I stocked her small bookshelf with fiction and nonfiction about winter, polar bears, the Arctic, and snow. There were not a lot available for two-year-olds but we still discussed the pictures in the more difficult nonfiction books. Her favorite books were Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Junior and Eric Carle and Kitten’s Winter by Eugene Fernandes. Carle’s book follows the pattern set in several of his books.

 Click here to buy Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear

Kitten’s Winter is a simple story of the kitchen out in the snow. Each page has an unusual illustration made of photographs, drawings, found materials, and cut paper art. The text is four words of noun verb, noun verb such as “Raccoon dozes, Woodpecker taps.” I give it a five out of five.

 Click here to buy Kitten’s Winter

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Fitch, Sherry and Janet Wilson – No Two Snowflakes – Book Review

 Click here to buy No Two Snowflakes

As a person who lives where snow covers the ground six months of the year, I was deeply impressed by Sherry Features understanding and descriptions of all the different types of snow. The protagonist, a young blonde haired blue-eyed boy, is trying to explain snow to his dark skinned friend, who lives in a place with no winter. As you read the author’s description, you can hear, see, and even taste the snow. She manages to portray detailed images through the use of poetry. Her words are to be savored. If you live in the north you understand the difference between slow feather shapes and splinters sharp snow. You’ve heard the rubbery squeak of snow beneath your feet. I’ve never heard such a perfect description of such a rich season.

Janet Wilson’s illustrations complement the words beautifully. Whether it is a child catching snowflakes on his tongue are a group of children engaged in a snowball fight, sensations seep into the reader page to page. This is a book that is to be read slowly, enjoying the sounds, examining the shapes of the words, and exploring the pictures.

At the end of the book, Fitch discusses the roots of this book. She tells us that “every book, like every person and every snowflake, is different too.” This book is for UNICEF and features activities at the end to celebrate your senses.

I highly recommend this book for those who enjoy snow and for those who have never experienced it. I’m tempted to give six thumbs up.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages