Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘Allison’s Book Bag

Nature and animals are themes that run through the following three books. The latter two also contain a message about finding oneself in the world.

Sunny Day Point and Match by Rosie Wingert is a colorful and sturdy board book that gives parents a fun activity to do with their toddlers. Together families can talk about objects, sounds, seasons, and more. Items to find on the page are illustrated at the top. Inside the cover are a list of other ideas for how parents can use the book, including matching shapes, finding favorite colors, counting related objects, and making sounds from nature. One parent told me that Sunny Day helped their son learn memory and matching skills by age one!

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae is a fun story with an inspiring message. Gerald was a tall giraffe whose knees were crooked and whose legs were thin. Unfortunately, while he was good at standing tall and munching shoots off trees, he wasn’t so good at dancing. This was a big problem for the giraffe at the annual dance. The solution is contrived, but readers will find hope in Andreae’s message about self-esteem. In addition, the bold artwork exudes a party vibe and the rhyming text has a lively style that will young readers will enjoy.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate should be on every animal lover’s list of must-read books. The plot drew me into another world, that of a gorilla who lives in a glass-enclosed display in a mall. Ivan fills his days drawing bananas, watching television, and talking with friends. I loved how Applegate integrated the theme of friendship and of hope. Ivan seems content until a kidnapped baby elephant joins the mall menagerie and his friend Stella becomes sick. Slowly he’s forced to remember his past, and to fight for a better life for himself and his friends. Finally, the short paragraph’s written from Ivan’s perspective are mesmerizing. I quickly found myself loving this easygoing gorilla, who has unique ways of expressing himself.

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Kids. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2018.

There are books that one should buy the instant they’re published. They are the books that become frayed and worn from multiple rereads. At the same time, their stories are so heartwarming one must tell every reader about them. These rare and special books will live on in our hearts and as such deserve a place on everyone’s shelves. Such a book is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.

The Kissing Hand was inspired by a true event. Penn had the fortune “to witness a mother raccoon in the wild giving comfort to her newborn cub by opening his tiny hand, nuzzling his paw, and leaving her scent within his grasp.” She then watched the cub place his palm to his face, making in her words “that first important connection with his mother.” A true storyteller, Penn recounted that experience to her first son, then her second son, and later to her daughter. She also sold the story to Humpty Dumpty Magazine. When her final child entered kindergarten, Penn decided to rewrite the story in picture book form–for which the literary world should be grateful.

Any adult can weave tales to entertain a child for a few minutes, but it takes talent to write a story that will become a keepsake, and Penn has that gift. The Kissing Hand starts with the simple but captivating line: “Chester Raccoon stood at the end of the forest and cried.” Immediately I wanted to know why Chester is unhappy. Turns out Chester doesn’t want to go to school, but wishes to stay home with his toys, his friends, and his mom. Instantly I felt a connection. Rare is the child or adult who hasn’t wanted to stay home surrounded by everything and everyone who is familiar, instead of embracing a strange and potentially uncomfortable new situation. At first his mom simply tries to reassure Chester by holding his paw and telling his that he’ll find new toys, make new friends, and experience new adventures. While these actions are a start, she’s a smart enough mom to know that something else will be needed, and so she shares with Chester the secret of the kissing hand.

The colorful illustrations are by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak. Harper is a self-taught artist from England who approached Penn back in the days before the internet to ask if she needed an illustrator. Penn loved her drawings and gave her the manuscript for The Kissing Hand. Leak is an American printmaker whose hand-pulled original etchings have won her recognition throughout the United States. Together the two artists have enhanced Penn’s story with tender and pleasant artwork.

SoCal Public Relations surprised me with a 25th anniversary edition of The Kissing Hand. On the front inside is a presentation page, a page for special memories. On the back inside is a letter from the author, a sheet of The Kissing Hand stickers, and a code for a free download of Letters to Chester. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn will become a keepsake.

 

I always enjoy a new novel by Kathryn Erskine. The Incredible Magic of Being is no exception. In this middle-grade story, Erskine has once again given a fresh approach to the themes of diversity, family relationships, and of loss and grief.

As with many of Erskine’s characters, Julian has a unique way of looking at the world. Through chapter titles, narrative, and the Facts and Random Thoughts sidebars, Julian’s love of science shines in both serious and humorous ways. For example, the first chapter is called Black Holes and Messier Objects. In this chapter, Julian compares his sister to a black hole. Anyone who has met an explosive teen with sympathize. At the same time, I can’t help but laugh when Julian shares that his sister at times makes a noise like an orangutan, wears earbuds and sunglasses even inside, and has moods that spook him. And then I feel sad again when Julian compares himself to a Messy Object. This isn’t a reference to a messy room but to an object that gets in the way.

Family relationships are an integral part of The Incredible Magic of Being. The changing dynamics between Julian and his sister Pookie will feel real to anyone who has a sibling. The two used to be like magnets. Pookie would even read to Julian when he had nightmares. Now the two have drifted apart. At times, the two quarrel such as during the car drive to their new home in Maine. Pookie tells Julian to stop kicking her backpack. Julian’s mom takes his side, asking him to stop jiggling his feet and to instead take calm breaths. When she calls him a freak, Julian chooses to touch Pookie’s backpack and inwardly hopes that she won’t notice. At times, Julian still tries to connect with his sister. When their parents assign them both chores to prepare for the family’s new Bed and Breakfast venture, Julian asks Pookie to work together with him. Because she hates the Bed and Breakfast, Pookie refuses to do even her own chores,  and so Julian elects to do all the chores to keep the peace. The enmity continues until their neighbor has a heart attack and they need each other.

Despite the fact their neighbor could prevent their family from building a Bed and Breakfast by the nearby lake, Julian feels sorry for Mr. X who has lost his wife and is now completely alone. At first Julian acts like an obnoxious child in his insistence that Mr. X needs to have him as a friend. Just as much, Mr. X acts like a grumpy old man who has no time for anyone or anything because of his age and grief. Through a series of twists and turns, a magical relationship develops between these two strong characters of very different ages. For example, in Julian’s mind, Julian’s desire for a dog and Mr. X’s need for a companion can be met, if Mr. X adopts a dog but allows Julian to care for it. Except then Mr. X surprises Julian by asking that he teach his dog and himself water safety, something that Julian doesn’t want to do due to being afraid of water, drowning, and death.

There are many more features to The Incredible Magic of Being that I’ve left out such as the relationship between Julian’s lesbian parents. It shows the realistic struggles that every couple faces in attempting to stay connected, raise children, and find a meaningful place in the world. Then there’s the slightly paranormal undertone, which leads to a surprisingly revelation. I encourage you to read The Incredible Magic of Being and experience Erskine’s memorable writing for yourself.

When looking for books to read, a perfect place to start is with the award-winners. They’re available for all ages and in all genres. Here are three recent ones.

We Are Growing by Laurie Keller bursts with the exuberance one would expect of a winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Such exuberance is also perhaps the only way an author could comically write about such a mundane topic as grass. Each blade of grass is growing and proud of being the tallest, the curliest, or the silliest. But one long piece of grass doesn’t know what’s special about him until a lawn mower reduces them to the same size. Through googly-eyed grasses and slapstick moments, Keller gently teaches that we’re all the best at something.

Jean-Michel Basquiat grew up drawing with the support of his mom, who would lie with him to draw on old work papers. From her, Basquiat learned that art is found not just in museums and theaters but also in the games he played and the people he met. Basquiat overcame serious injuries suffered when he was struck by a car at age seven, and the institutionalization of his mom at age 13 to become a famous artist. Steptoe captures Basquiat’s life in his rich writing style and creative illustrations. To give meaning to the book’s artwork, Steptoe collected bits of scrap wood from around Basquiat’s home in New York City, and used them as canvases onto which he painted scenes from his book. He also adeptly integrates Basquiat’s favorite motifs into his illustrations. Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe is a brilliant Caldecott-winner biography!

Entrenched in fantasy, complex characters, and poignant themes, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is impossible to put down. Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch that lives in the forest. But nothing is at is seems in this Newbery-winning novel. For example, the witch is kind. She rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest. One year, the witch discovers one of the children possesses magic and decides to raise Luna as her own. But the baby’s mother is searching for her. And the mother meets a man who is determined to free his people from the witch. Eventually, all paths intersect with a message of love.

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Kids. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2018.

I’m so proud of Rainy! In April, she received her certification as a therapy cat. And in May we were able to take her to a studio photo shoot at JC Penny as a reward.

Rainy and I began her certification process back in January. Our first step was to have a Control Evaluation form completed by our vet. The form asks eleven questions. Some are about health, others are about temperament, and the rest are related to Love on a Leash (LOAL) regulations. For example, is Rainy house trained, will she be on a leash, and can I control her. Temperament is by far the most important. Aggressive cats are automatically disqualified. Our veterinarian described Rainy as: “social, inquisitive, and sweet”.

Our second step was to undergo ten supervised visits at a facility. If there is a local LOAL chapter, a graduate of the program can act as supervisor. Normally we would have been supervised by a graduate of the Omaha LOAL chapter’s cat program. But there were no such graduates. I would be the first. Therefore, we were instead supervised by the activity directors of the two senior residences where we visited.

The third step was to fill out the LOAL application for cats. The application is three pages. The first page asked for basic information about me, Rainy, and our vet. I also had to sign a declaration that states Rainy has never been aggressive. The second page was a fee checklist. A new membership is $50. The third page contained a pet agreement. Among other things, it stipulates that we’ll continue to train and that we’ll be clean and well-groomed for each visit. In addition to filling out the three-page form, I had to submit a headshot of Rainy for her photo ID and two full-body photos for LOAL’s records.

On April 8, I received an email from a LOAL National representative informing me that my application had been received. The representative asked a few follow-up questions and then told me my application would get forwarded to the Membership Chairman. I was, and I soon also heard from the Membership Chairman, who asked a few questions and then told me that Rainy’s certification was approved. I received my therapy cat certification packet on April 14. It included an ID for me, photo ID for Rainy, bandana, plastic ID holder for both IDS, retractable lanyard, LOAL pet tag, and LOAL certificate.

Rainy_LOALAs a reward, Andy and I took Rainy to a studio photo shoot on May 9 at JC Penny. We wanted Rainy photographed wearing only her LOAL cat therapy bandana, without the clutter of her collar or harness, and the photographer graciously blocked off the studio door so that Rainy couldn’t escape once off her leash. Customers are encouraged to bring their own props to add personality (and comfort for babies/pets) and so I brought Rainy’s favorite toys, bedding, and treats. Naturally, I dressed Rainy up with her therapy cat bandana.

Then began the challenge of having Rainy pose for a photo. I used every trick I could think of. I directed her to “Sit!” and held up a treat. Rainy complied but only for a couple of seconds. Next, I tried directing her to “Stay!” Unfortunately, she’s yet to become proficient with this command. I also tried directing her to “Pose for the camera!” while holding up a treat. Again, Rainy complied but only for a few seconds. I started having flashbacks of my parents’ efforts to photograph my brother and sister when they were energetic toddlers. The photographer made clicking sounds, which caught Rainy’s attention for a few seconds. Andy also tried to help by directing Rainy’s attention towards the camera, and by repositioning Rainy when she moved. Fortunately, the times when Rainy posed for even just a few seconds were enough for the photographer to take some great shots.

We had selected two backdrops for the shoot. The first was a blue sky with clouds. After several shots with it, the photographer then switched to the second backdrop, which was plain white. We wanted Rainy to stand out in her photos.

The photographer also added some of her own props. She selected ones that fit Rainy’s name: yellow galoshes and a yellow umbrella. She also added a bouquet of yellow flowers. We tried to get Rainy to sit on a stool or to stand with her front paws on it, but Rainy wasn’t having anything to do with the stool. She did however pose with everything else. At times, she crouched or flopped, but several times she sat upright and a few times she looked upward. And so once again, the photographer was able to take some great shots.

Over all, we were pleased with the visit. Rainy acted friendly and curious in a new place. She also somewhat followed our commands. Near the end of May, we’ll have two 8×10 photos to frame, along with two sheets of wallet-size photos that I can hand-out to people whom Rainy and I visit.

If your cat enjoys people and is comfortable with unfamiliar places, please consider cat therapy. For more information, please email me at allisontalkspetsATgmailDOTcom and/or join I-Cat.

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2018.

2018-train-for-rewards-butt


Allisons' Book Bag Logo

2018

I am focusing this year on other commitments. Once a month, I’ll post reviews of Advanced Reader Copies. Titles will include: Freddy Frogcaster and the Flash Flood by Janice Dean, One Two by Igor Eliseev, Incredible Magic of Being by Kathyrn Erskine, Dragon Grammar Book by Diane Robinson, and Wide as the Wind by Edward Stanton.

Categories

Archives

Best Friends Network Partner

Blog Paws

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 124 other followers