A Competitive Perspective by Deborah Ann Davis, Guest Blogger

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A Competitive Perspective
by Deborah Ann Davis, B.S., M.Ed., W.I.T.S.

When I was a little girl, my country town didn’t have girls’ sports, so I didn’t have any formal exposure to organized competition at a young age. I use the word organized to differentiate between athletic competition, and that which girls did to compete for boys’ attention. I certainly partook in the latter.

Basketball-Clipart.jpgIn high school, I cheered madly for the basketball captain I was crushing on. I was myopic in my focus on him (oh, right… there were other people on the court, too), but that focus provided me with an unusual view of competition- the view he held. He was a fabulous athlete who was known to congratulate his opponents on good shots and good moves. It drove his track coach crazy when he helped his opponents with their jumping technique (yeah, I followed him in track, too). He believed that every competition was a platform for learning, about himself and others, so I learned to believe that, too.

When our daughter (yeah, I married him twelve years later) began playing basketball, we decided to coach her AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) team so she would learn about competition in its purest form… and here it is: In any competition, the only one you can ever truly compete against is yourself. Win or lose, you have to ask yourself, “Did I do better this time than I have ever done before?”

Who cares if you smoke a bush-league opponent? Where is the honor in that? We taught our players to work on their skills instead of crushing weaker opponents. Instead of racking up the points, they moved the ball around the court until every teammate scored. Rather than feeding the ball to the go-to scorers, they selected something to improve (blocking, passing, boxing out, rebounding, etc.). Honing their skills taught them to control the tempo of the game.

JumpingBut what about when they lost? It was crushing to young girls unaccustomed to losing. The first thing we did in our (sometimes tearful) post-game huddle was to review their stats and emphasize their personal bests. We reminded them anyone who achieved a personal best had successfully competed, especially in the face of a stronger team. Grins replaced tears as they listened to how they improved, strengthening their resolve to do better the next game.

Was this philosophy effective? It sure was. By the time they finished Middle School, they had swept States two years in a row. In the ninth grade, nine of our players were starters for their High School Varsity teams.

The lesson here is that no matter how you train, or how much you prepare, you cannot control whether you win or lose because you cannot control who shows up to compete against you, whether in sports, in grades, or in job interviews. But no matter who shows up, you can control whether you do your best. You can learn and improve in the face of adversity until you achieve your goals.

And, as Petir tells Maid Rianne in Fairly Certain, you have control over who you bring to the game.

DebDavis-240x300.jpgFairly Safe, Deborah Ann Davis’ second novel,
will be available at the end of February 2015.
Click here to read Deborah Ann Davis’ blog.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this guest post are solely those of the author and may not not necessarily reflect the opinions of Good Reads With Ronna reviewers.



Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light

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Louise-Loves-Art-cvr.jpgCELEBRATE THE LOVE OF ART

Author/Illustrator Kelly Light has created characters who are both lovable and relatable in Louise Loves Art, (Balzer and Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins, $17.99, Ages 4-8). Truly a work of art, Light’s first picture book, Louise Loves Art, will leave you satisfied, and wanting more at the same time. With a sparse text, (only about 130 words), you’d think it would be difficult to tell much of a story. Fuhgeddaboudit! (Sorry. Fellow former Jersey girl, Light, must have brought it out in me). This is a story brimming with a child’s passion for creative expression as well as a tale of sibling dynamics.

As the title says, Louise loves art. She draws all kinds of things, a frog, a sailboat, and her little brother Art. Young readers will enjoy seeing her work displayed throughout the house. Art watches and idolizes his big sister, as she tries to create a masterpiece: a picture of her cat.

To be a great artist, you have to notice everything.
Every line…
every curve…
Wait–hold that pose! I will capture your cat-ness!

But while Louise is engrossed in finding the perfect place to display her pièce de résistance, she fails to notice Art, his attempts to get her attention, and “his own” creation.


Interior artwork from Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light, Balzer & Bray ©2014.

Unlike Art’s inability to capture his sister’s eye, Light has no trouble getting our attention on and off the page. Frequently seen sporting red lipstick and matching eyeglasses, while on her book tour, Light told me, “Strong, by Lush Cosmetics, is the color of lipstick I like. Louise is a strong character.” Yes, she is, and with her primarily black and white and red all over style of artwork, Light makes that very clear. Using a black Prisma color pencil on vellum, scanning her drawings into the computer, and coloring them in Photoshop with “Louise Red” (also known as Pantone 1788), has her illustrations popping off the page.


Interior artwork from Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light, Balzer & Bray ©2014.

Louise inspires her brother, and Light’s book encourages children across the country to pick up a pencil and draw. In a time when art classes are being cut or eliminated from schools, it’s good to shed a little “Light” on the subject.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher


Celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day With Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

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Good Reads With Ronna
is a proud participant in
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2015

MCBookDay-white-2Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day and we’re SO excited!! We’ve got one book from our friends at Lee and Low Books that we’re talking about today, and two more we’ll mention below that are also must-reads. But before you get the scoop about Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, learn about the origins of MCCBD and help us celebrate and promote diversity in kidlit. Use the hashtag #ReadYourWorld and spread the word!


Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is to create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.

You can find the MCCBD blog and links to all the other participating sites here.

REVIEW: Little Melba and Her Big Trombone                                                                                  

main_LITTLE_MELBA_cover_hi_res_resize.jpgPick an instrument, any instrument – would you pick the trombone? Well, in Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, (Lee and Low, $18.95, Ages 4-8) by Katheryn Russell-Brown with illustrations by Frank Morrison, that’s exactly what Melba Doretta Liston did and never once looked back! This eye-opening fictionalized picture book biography recounts the story of a jazz pioneer whose contribution to the music industry is presented in irresistible prose and artwork certain to get your toes tapping and fingers snapping.

Born in pre-Depression Kansas City, Melba had the music in her from an early age. In fact making music would always matter to Melba. It was easy to be influenced when “avenues were lined with jazz club, street bands, and folks harmonizing on every corner.” From blues to jazz to gospel, Melba loved it all and soaked up all the sounds around her. At age seven she chose a “shiny trombone: from the traveling music store and, with the help of her grandpa and her keen ear, Melba learned how to play it.


Interior artwork from Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown with art by Frank Morrison, Lee & Low Books ©2014.


In the years following the Depression, things got tough financially for Melba’s mom so together the two moved to Los Angeles where Melba’s trombone talent really took off. Eventually, when she was just seventeen, Melba toured the country with trumpeter Gerald Wilson’s band. With the popularity of jazz sweeping the nation, Melba’s prowess on her beloved brass instrument stood out on stages everywhere. “She composed and arranged music, spinning rhythms, harmonies, and melodies into gorgeous songs.”

This young woman was a musical force to be reckoned with. But the harsh realities of racial segregation she and the band experienced while touring down South meant “some white folks didn’t show good manners toward folks with brown skin.” This brought Melba to the brink of quitting, but ultimately she persevered, playing her horn with the likes of “Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones and more.” She even toured briefly with Billie Holiday. Melba’s career took her around the world and garnered her numerous awards including being named Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, “the highest honor the U.S. gives to a jazz artist.”

Helpful back matter includes an Afterword, a Selected Discography and Author’s Sources. This pioneering, brass playing woman has left a legacy of music to learn and love, as well as a tale that begged to be told. I’m thrilled Russell-Brown found Melba’s inspiring story and conveyed it so beautifully. Russell-Brown’s words coupled with Morrison’s warm and spirited illustrations take us back in time so when we’re done reading we feel as if we’ve been on the road with Melba Liston, and that’s really something special!  – Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

main_LEND_A_HAND_covermain_HHQueen_Check out Lee and Low Books today for these and other diverse books:
Lend a Hand and The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen.


RELATED ACTIVITY: Make a musical instrument with your child

Simply get an empty toilet paper roll, scissors, wax paper, a rubber band (or masking tape), fun stickers, and something sharp like the point of the scissors (NOTE: for parents to do only!). Cut a piece of the wax paper that is large enough to completely cover the hole at one end with room to spare for fastening it down. Use a rubber band or masking tape to hold the wax paper in place. One option is to make small holes in the wax paper then have your child decorate the toilet roll with stickers or patterned duct tape and try out the sound. Another option is to make one hole in the part of the toilet paper roll that is not covered by the wax paper, and no holes in the wax paper. Have your child ompare the sounds these two types of kazoos make. Try making the instrument with a paper towel roll instead. Is the sound any different using a long paper roll? Will more holes cut into the toilet paper roll or paper towel rolls make the sounds change?

MCCBD Diversity Book Lists and Resources for Educators and Parents is now available.

MCCBD’s new Facebook page
MCCBD’s new Twitter using #ReadYourWorld

Continue reading »


Madame Martine by Sarah S. Brannen

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written and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen 
(Albert Whitman & Company, $16.99, Ages 4-8)

Madame-Martine-cvr.jpgWith soft, smudgey watercolors, the book shows us the unsmiling Madame going about her usual business. She even irons with her back turned to a gorgeous view of the Eiffel Tower from her apartment window! “Eh! It’s a tourist thing,” she says dismissively.

Then one rainy day, Madame discovers a small, wet, dirty dog that licks her hand and wags its tail. “It needs me,” she thinks, and “A dog might be nice.” She takes him home, cleans him up, and names him Max.

Max fits comfortably into Madame’s routine life, until one day he takes off after a squirrel and chases it under the turnstile to the Eiffel Tower. Madame has no choice but to buy a ticket and follow him. Young readers will relish the wild journey as Max rushes all the way to the top, even taking the elevator! Will Madame be cross with her pup, or will Max’s unplanned adventure change her life for the better?

Brannen’s illustrations masterfully capture the intricate metalwork that compose the Eiffel Tower and she paints the full range of misty, hazy sky shades that drape Paris in the spring. Beautiful large spreads of the flickering city lights help reinforce the idea that the world beyond one’s doorstep is a wondrous place to explore. Children will adore the cuddly, lively Max whose puppyish energy and enthusiasm ooze off the page.

MADAME MARTINE is a nice book to share with children who embrace routine and resist change. It is also refreshing to see an older person portrayed in a picture book as a character who is still open to change, growth and discovery. And while Madame is not completely transformed, the book gently emphasizes that life is a sweeter journey with a good friend – or dog – at your side.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey


Where Obtained:  I reviewed a promotional copy of MADAME MARTINE from the publisher and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.


Peppa Pig and the Day at Snowy Mountain

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Peppa Pig and the Day at Snowy Mountain 
(Candlewick, $12.99, Ages 2-5)

Peppa-Pig-Snowy-Mountain-cvr.jpgThe holidays are over, but winter is here for a while yet. One of the best features of winter is playing in the snow. In Peppa Pig and the Day at Snowy Mountain, a family vacation means lots of adventures—sledding, ice skating, and skiing. But the Pig family has forgotten something! How can they go sledding without the sled? Never fear, Peppa has an idea. “Whee!” she says. “A Daddy sled!” Good old Dad gives Peppa and George a ride down the slope on his tummy. Next, the family goes skating, which isn’t easy for everyone. Peppa skates…and falls…and tries again. Mummy Pig helps. Peppa is skating! Now it’s time to ski, but Daddy Pig doesn’t like heights and Peppa’s song about sitting in the ski lift isn’t helping calm his nerves. “Don’t look down!” says Mummy. But Daddy does look down. He topples out of the ski life. Where did Daddy Pig go? Young readers will laugh when Daddy Pig emerges and just wait until they see Mummy Pig’s hijinks on the skis!


Interior spread from Peppa Pig and the Day at Snowy Mountain, Candlewick Press ©2014.


Peppa Pig is a preschool favorite. With age-appropriate language and concepts, as well as fun and colorful characters, it’s easy to see why.


As an added bonus, the inside of the book jacket is a coloring poster.

Visit the Peppa Pig website by clicking here.


Read about more Peppa Pig books here:

– Reviewed by Rita Zobayan


Whatever the Weather! Series by Carol Thompson

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As diverse as the weather is, so are the babies illustrated by Carol Thompson, in this four book Whatever the Weather! board book series which includes: SNOW, RAIN, SUN, and WIND, (Child’s Play International Ltd., $4.99, Ages 0-3).

In SNOWSnow-cvr.jpg, a child puts on his warm clothes and goes out to experience the sounds and sensations of playing in the snow.

… and…
… slip.

When the sun gets low in the sky he must say goodnight to his snow monsters (snowmen), and go inside to warm his chilly nose and toes.

Sun-cvr.jpgIn contrast to the cold and snowy weather, Thompson has brightly illustrated the book, SUN, with babies donning sun hats and sunscreen, and little else. They strip down to the bare necessities of clothing for a day of fun in the sun.

Shoes off, socks off…
…clothes off!

This barefoot romp takes us from sun up to sun down.

RAINRain-cvr.jpg is a delightfully lighthearted dance through the raindrops. Little ones will love the onomatopoeia and rhythm of the text.

Drip drop, Plip plop, Splish splosh……sploosh!

From first drop to sunshine and rainbows, this is a fun read!


Wind-cvr.jpgHold onto your hats and hounds when you read WIND. Thompson’s illustrations capture the movement and chaos of a windy day.

Wind ruffles and tickles …
…and snatches!

This briskly paced read lends itself to drama and sounds effects, as the wind lifts us up and sets us back down to a calm ending.

It’s no surprise that Thompson has done such a beautiful job of illustrating stuffed bunnies, pinwheels, and kiddie-pools, as well as many other easily recognizable items in this delightful 12 page board book series. She’s illustrated more than forty-five books for children and is the recipient of the Mother Goose Award for Children’s Book Illustration.

– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher


Henry Holton Takes the Ice by Sandra Bradley

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How to be True to Yourself  

Henry Holton Takes the Ice by Sandra Bradley with iHenry-Holton-cvr.jpgllustrations by Sara Palacios, (Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 5-8).

Henry Holton’s family is obsessed by hockey. His father, mother, big sister, twenty-three cousins and even his grandmother all play or have played hockey. The only question there seemed to be about Henry after he was born was if he was going to be left or right wing. There was absolutely no question that Henry was going to be great on the ice! From his first day on the ice Henry really was a natural.

As author Sandra Bradley tells us, Henry was a natural at swishing, swooshing, and swaggering. However, he was not a natural at hockey. From the moment the hockey stick was placed in his hands when he was a very little boy he felt that hockey was not for him. Even as he got older skating was what he loved to do. Hockey was boring to him. What was the point in going up and down the rink if you couldn’t skate beautifully? Henry’s parents and big sister find Henry’s lack of interest in hockey inexplicable.

One day Henry sees a poster for an ice dancing club. It’s not hockey, but Henry’s mom agrees that they can go and watch. What Henry sees on the ice in ice dancing is exactly what he wants to do! He doesn’t want to play hockey anymore. Henry wants to ice dance! Henry’s family has their doubts, but just when you think that Henry will never get his chance to do what the reader knows he was just born to do a surprising person steps in to take Henry’s side.

This picture book shows the importance of staying true to who you really are. The lovely illustrations by Sara Palacios of the red headed Holton family brighten up the icy background. A helpful glossary of hockey terms is located at the back of the book. We all need to be reminded that it’s more than okay to be who you are. In fact, that is exactly who you were meant to be! Henry Holton Takes the Ice is a sweet, sensitively told story that speaks straight to the heart.

Click here to read about Pura Belpré Honor Award Winner, illustrator Sara Palacios’ other book, Twas Nochebuena written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong.

Learn more about ice dancing here.

– Reviewed by Hilary Taber