Rona Arato was born in New York and lived on a busy street in Brooklyn. One of her first memories was going downstairs to buy an ice cream cone at the candy store--maybe this is why her first picture book was called Ice Cream Town! When she was six years old her family moved to Los Angeles. There, her two favorite places were the local movie theater, where they went for the double matinee every Saturday, and the library. She decided that when she grew up, she would write children's books.
She went to college to become an elementary school teacher. She spent a year in Israel and traveling around Europe. When she returned to Los Angeles, she met her husband Paul. They then had three children and made a move Toronto. When her children were growing up, Rona started to write professionally. She wrote articles for newspapers and magazines, press releases and advertising copy for companies and charities, she even wrote blurbs that you read on the sides of packages. Once Rona's children were grown, she decided it was time to work on those kids' books she'd always wanted to write!
Now, Rona is a published children's author. She writes fiction and nonfiction. She especially loves historical fiction; she likes to do research and learn how kids lived in different times and places.
Mrs. Kaputnik's Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium
Set at the time of Teddy Roosevelt, this saga of a Russian Jewish family who escapes Cossacks in a tiny village named Vrod to come to America is based on stories that the author has told her husband and children over the years. Fortunately, the children have a pet dragon, Snigger, who protects the Kapustins from the Cossacks' blows, and from young bullies and gangster Nick the Stick in New York City. Hatched from a magic egg found in the woods near their home, Snigger grows bigger and bigger as he travels with mother and children to the Golden City. Amber amulets given by their now-vanished father protect the children too. Still, Mrs. Kaputnik (her name changed at Ellis Island), daughter Shoshi, and son Moshe must find their "imprisoned" patriarch, suffer robbery by relatives, and deal with a failing restaurant. A mysterious stranger, a circus owner, and a pirate all play crucial roles. Hard matzo balls are essential too. It is an entertaining tale for middle readers, who can learn much about the immigrant experience. Humor lightens the otherwise harsh realities of such a journey. A tongue-in-cheek subplot features the Brooklyn Slobbers and the New York Yoinkles. The villagers, as well as the East Side residents, come across as genuine. A glossary would be helpful because Yiddish words are included. Two cute dragon are featured on the cover and at the heads of chapters. 2010, Tundra Books, $9.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Carol Raker Collins, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
On A Medieval Day
Illustrated by Peter Ferguson
Whether challenging a corrupt uncle to an archery contest or stowing away on a great Venetian galley, the tweens in On a Medieval Day are anything but ordinary twelve-year-olds. Each long to find his/her place in the world and demonstrate the plucky courage to face whatever challenges may come his/her way. Presented as a collection of story-journeys, On a Medieval Day follows a single day in the life of eight youngsters scattered throughout the world and through time. Readers get just a taste of life in ancient America, China, Baghdad, Finland, England, Japan, Timbuktu, Venice, and Toledo from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. Hana struggles with how to maintain her fierce independence while accepting her arranged marriage; Jamal hopes to become a doctor if only he can recover from what seems to be the smallpox; Richard dreams of becoming a knight but fears he will be sent away from the castle. Brief historical notes follow each story, placing terms, events, and places in context. The breadth of this collection offers a fresh view of the medieval era, going beyond the knights and ladies we often associate with this part of history and delving into the advances made in trade, medicine, political empires, and learning all over the world. 2010, Maple Tree Press, $15.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Leah Hanson (Children's Literature).
Protists: Algae, Amoebas, Plankton, and Other Protists
Part of the series called "A Class of Their Own," this well organized and easily understood book is photo rich. It shows electron microscope images of tiny protists and also images of larger organisms such as whales interacting with them. Although protists will be unfamiliar to many readers, they were first identified in 1674 by Dutch scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek. He called the things he saw "animalcules" or little animals. Now scientists know that these organisms are neither plants nor animals, neither bacteria nor fungi. They are defined as much by what they are not as what they are. Protists are actually huge beds of kelp. They are also the tiny green algae that produce much of Earth's oxygen. They are at once exotic and so standard as to be almost boring. They cause human diseases such as malaria, and as plankton, they provide food for some of the biggest creatures in the ocean. This book describes how protists move through the water, how they reproduce, and how scientists group them. Algae, for example, are grouped at least in part by their color, so green algae are a different species than red algae. The brilliant photos and illustrations keep the eyes moving across the page. Although the series title is confusing because the term class is also used when grouping species correctly, the book itself is excellent. Backmatter includes glossary, list of more information, and index. 2010, Crabtree Publishing Company, $29.27 and $9.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen (Children's Literature).
Rona's readings and presentations are geared to students in grades 3 to 8 and to older ESL students. She also presents to adult groups. As a former teacher, she understands what teachers and school librarians want from an author's visit. Rona uses an interactive reading/discussion approach to involve children and excite their curiosity. She links stories to current issues such as immigration and social responsibility. A theme that runs through much of her work is that one person can, and often does, make a significant difference. By involving the children in examining these issues, Rona helps them think about the way they interact with friends, family, and the community at large.
Her interactive presentations involve the students at all levels. She tells them about herself and how and why she writes and discusses the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction and research methods. Rona gives background on the book she is presenting abd talks about what motivated her to write it. She will read and then discuss the section she read.
Children often ask Rona the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction. She explores the writing process in each, emphasizing the need for good research and accuracy, whatever the genre. She discusses how she does her research and how she blends real and fictional events and characters in historical fiction.
- Fees: $300 for 1 presentation, $550 for 2 presentations, $850 for 3 presentations
- Presentations are 1 hour
- Average number of students per session: 75-80. Rona has presented to groups as small as 20 and as large as 150.
- Writing workshops available for grades 4 - 8 (flexible)
To learn more about Rona Arato and her publications please visit www.ronaarato.com.
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