Lost Girl Found

Lost Girl Found9781554984169_p0_v1_s260x420Lost Girl Found

Leah Bassoff and Laura DeLuca, Authors

Groundwood Books, Fiction, March 2014

Suitable for Ages: 13-17

Themes: Lost Girls, Education, Persecution, Refugees, Sudan, War, Survival, Courage, Hope

Pages: 192

Synopsis:  Poni lives in Chukudum, a small village in South Sudan. Poni wants an education and is encouraged by her mama. She is smart and has no interest in marriage. She beats away the boys who show her any attention. She will not be forced into a marriage like her best friend, Nadai. Instead she watches the boys, becomes a fast runner and swims in the forbidden Kinyeti River. One night the bombs start falling over her village and Poni flees for her life. She can’t find her family and journeys with other refugees to a camp in Kenya, where conditions are deplorable. She escapes from the camp for a chance to pursue her dreams.

Why I like this book: Leah Bassoff and Laura DeLuca have written a very powerful and gripping novel about a strong-willed girl, Zenitra Lujana Paul Poni, who against all odds, survives the trauma and atrocities of the Sudanese war to pursue her dream of getting an education.  Poni is one of the Lost Girls of Sudan. Unlike the Lost Boys, the stories of the Lost Girls are rarely told. Poni narrates the story and her voice is smooth, strong and determined, no matter the challenges she faces. You can’t help but cheer for her. This is the first book I have read about the Lost Girls of Sudan, so I was particularly interested in the story behind this story. Poni is actually a compilation of many resilient girls and women who survive, receive the education, and give back to their country. A lot of research went into telling Poni’s remarkable story. Bassoff and DeLuca met at a conference for Southern Sudanese Women. DeLuca, an anthropologist, knew the Sudanese people, the language  and the culture. She helped Bassoff with the details and accuracy. Their collaboration results in a realistic portrayal  that honors these incredibly resilient women so that students will learn about what child refugees, mostly orphans, endure in war-torn parts of the world. Lost Girl Found is a page-turner and belongs in every middle and high school library.

Resources: The authors have listed films, documentaries and books about the lost children at the end of the book. There also is a beautiful author’s note, information on the Lost Children of Sudan, a map and a brief timeline of Sudan from 1955 to 2011, when the Republic of South Sudan gains independence and is founded. Visit Leah Bassoff at her website.

All royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to Africare, a charitable organization that works with local populations to improve the quality of life for people in Africa.

Bumblebee Bike

Bumblebee Bike9781433816468_p0_v1_s260x420Bumblebee Bike

Sandra Levins, Author

Claire Keay, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Stealing, Bicycle, Behavior, Guilt, Honesty

Opening: David was impatient. When he saw something he wanted, his teeth clenched. His fists tightened. His heart raced. When he wanted something, he wanted it right away.

Synopsis: David has a secret treasure box in his closet where he keeps the things he borrows from people without asking — like the Superman he snatches from his best friend Payton, the blinking reindeer pin from Aunt Rhonda, and a green rubber ball from his neighbor Charlie. To lessen his guilt, David tells himself that he will give it all back someday. When his prized yellow bicycle is missing he feels sick inside and wonders how someone can take something that belongs to someone else. He remembers the things he’s taken and realizes what he’s done is wrong.  He knows he has to make things right.

Why I like this book: Sandra Levins’ book belongs in every home. Children are unaware of the value of an item until they lose something they cherish. A common conflict among children is the proverbial “I see, I want, and I take,” with no sense of consequence. Levins’ book addresses this common occurrence in a child’s development with simplicity and compassion.  Claire Keay’s illustrations are colorful pastels, full of detail and they compliment the storyline.

Resources: The book is a resource. There is a two-page spread of helpful information, strategies, activities and discussion questions parents can use with their children.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

A Time fo Dance

A Time to Dance9780399257100_p0_v2_s260x420A time to Dance

Padma Venkatraman, Author

Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, May 2014

Suitable for ages: 12-16

Themes: Dance, India, Amputee, Disabilities, Abilities

Book Jacket Synopsis: Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance–so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown up used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.

Why I like this book: This inspirational novel is lyrically written in verse. Padma Venkatraman has woven together a story about loss and resilience of a girl determined to dance once again her beloved Bharatanatyam.  This is not a story about disability, but one of ability. It is about finding the deeper spiritual meaning of the dance over the applause. “For my invisible audience of the One I begin to dance./ Colors blur into whiteness and a lilting tune that is and is not of the world resonates within and without me./ My body feels whole./In the beat of my heart I hear again the eternal rhythm of Shiva’s feet.” Reading Venkatraman’s novel is an experience of India in all its beauty, cultural traditions, senses and sounds. If you listen closely you can hear the faint echo of a dancing rhythm.  Thaiya thai. Thaiya thai.  I highly recommend this beautiful novel for tweens and teens who have faced challenges in their lives. This book is a treasure on my bookshelf.

Padma Venkatraman is an oceanographer by training and a writer by choice. She is the author of Climbing the Stairs and Island’s End, both multi-award winners.  Padma was born in India, but is now an American citizen. Visit Padma at her website. It has discussion questions and teaching resources.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match – Marisol McDonald no combina

Marisol McDonald9780892392353_p0_v1_s260x420

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

Monica Brown, Author

Sara Palacios, Illustrator

Children’s Book Press, Imprint of Lee & Low Books, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 years

Themes: A bilingual, Peruvian-Scottish-American soccer-playing girl celebrates her individuality

Opening: My name is Marisol McDonald, and I don’t match. At least that’s what everyone tells me./Me llamo Marisol McDonald y no combino. Al menos eso es lo que me dicen todos.

Book Synopsis: Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. To Marisol, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together. Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol — can’t she just choose one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that’s just fine with her.

Why I like this book: Monica Brown has written a charming story about a strong, spunky and carefree girl who embraces her multiracial heritage. You want to cheer for Marisol. It is inspired by Brown’s own Peruvian-American heritage. Did I mention the book is bilingual, so that Hispanic children can read the story and American children can learn Spanish? Like Marisol, some of the paragraphs are mismatched and include bilingual words.  For example Marisol even likes speaking Spanish and English at the same time. “Can I have a puppy? A furry, sweet perrito?” I ask my parents. “Por favor?” When Marisol tries to match her clothes so she fits in at school, she is miserable.  This book is a creative and beautiful example about how important it is to be comfortable and proud of who you are. Sara Palacios’s lively and colorful illustrations capture Marisol’s personality — just look at that cover! Great collaborative effort between the illustrator and author.

Resources: Lee & Low Books has a wonderful teachers guide page for Marisol McDonald with a lot of ideas and activities for using the book in the classroom.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Because I am a Girl: I Can Change the World

International Day of the Girl – Declared by the United Nations — October 11

Because I Am a Girl9781927583449_p0_v2_s260x420Because I am a Girl: I Can Change the World

Rosemary McCarney, with Jen Albaugh and Plan International, Authors

Second Story Press, Nonfiction, Oct. 11, 2014

Themes: Girls in developing countries, Poverty, Girls uniting to change the world, Social conditions, Educating Girls, Promoting girls’ rights

Suitable for Ages: 8 – 14

Pages: 96

Book Synopsis: Meet some amazing girls! They are from all over the world and tell stories of their lives that are sometimes hard to imagine. In Because I am a Girl we hear of the barriers and dangers that they, and millions of girls like them face every day. Despite the hardships, they have great hope for the future. All are willing to do whatever they can to make their lives and those of their families and communities better. Read about: Lucy, an orphan in Zimbabwe, who struggles to find enough food for herself and her sister; Kathryn from South Sudan, who teaches the younger children in the refugee camp where she lives; Farwa, who was destined to become a child bride in Pakistan; and Fahmeeda, a Youth Ambassador from Canada, who works to protect the rights of women and children around the world.

Why I like this book: Rosemary McCarney with Jen Albaugh, has written a powerful, inspiring, and uplifting book for middle grade readers that belongs in every school library — in multiple copies! It is a wonderful resource for students and teachers. The layout of the book is done with thought and purpose.  Readers are introduced to the stories of poverty-stricken girls who deal with barriers and hardship. Each story is followed by a “Did You Know” section, with facts and information about other girls around the globe facing similar problems and the critical need for education. In later sections the authors focus on hope and action. You feel strength and determination as the voices of the girls grow strong about what they can contribute. By the end of the book you see the girls uniting to form clubs to work on projects that will benefit their communities. These girls will become the future teachers, nurses, midwives, doctors, lawyers, business women and leaders. They will be the heart of their communities, bring growth and change, and turn the tide away from poverty and towards a more peaceful world. This book reminds me of what the Dalai Lama said at the Vancouver Peace Summit in 2009:  “The western women will save the world and bring peace.” It will also be educated girls in small villages around the globe bringing change to their communities and unity to the world.  Many photographers contributed to the bright and bold photographs that highlight each story. The book is beautifully packaged.

Rosemary McCarney is the author of a picture book Every Day is Malala Day She is President and CEO of Plan International Canada, and spearheads the Because I am a Girl global initiative.  She led the call for United Nations to declare October 11 the “International Day of the Girl” — a day each year to recognize and advocate for girls’ rights and end global poverty. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to Plan’s Because I am a Girl FundPlan International is one of the world’s largest international charities working in 50 developing countries, including the United States.

Jen Albaugh is a former elementary school teacher and librarian working as a freelance writer and editor in Toronto who is greatly inspired by the work of Plan and the Because I am a Girl initiative.

*I was provided with a copy of “Because I am a Girl” in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Armond Goes to a Party

ArmondGoesToAPartyArmond Goes to a Party: A Book about Asperger’s and Friendship

Nancy Carlson, Author and Illustrator, and her friend Armond Isaak

Free Spirit Publishing, Fiction, Apr. 15, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Asperger’ syndrome, Autism Spectrum, Friendship, Socialization, Coping

Opening: “You can read any time,” his mom said. “But parties make me nervous,” Armond said. “What if balloons pop?” “And parties are disorganized. I don’t like when things are disorganized.”

Synopsis: Armond has been invited to his best friend Felicia’s birthday party. Instead of being excited, Armond is anxious and worried. He recites all the reasons about why he shouldn’t go. The party may be too noisy.  He may feel invisible and lonely. And, he always plays basketball every Saturday. Armond’s mother reminds him that Felicia will feel sad if he doesn’t attend.  After all, Felicia is his best friend, doesn’t care that he has Asperger’s, and talks all the time about dinosaurs. Armond decides to attend the party. With the support of Felicia and her mother, he is able to make it through the party and have fun.

Why I like this book:  This is a realistic and humorous portrayal of what it’s like for a child with Asperger’s to socialize with other children. The story is inspired by Armond Isaak, who participated in Nancy Carlson’s writing classes when he was seven years old. The author was inspired by Armond’s stories about his life with Asperger’s syndrome.  When he approached her a few years later to help him turn his stories into a book, she agreed.  The book is about learning how to cope in situations where you are uncomfortable, learning to be a better friend and realizing your aren’t alone. Nancy Carlson’s illustrations are vivid, colorful, emotive and include diversity. Armond’s facial expressions are priceless. This is an excellent book that offers helpful coping advice to  children on the autism spectrum and for those who care about them. This is an ideal book  for classrooms.

Nancy Carlson is an accomplished children’s book author and illustrator who has published 65 children’s books.

Armond Isaak is now 14 years old and in middle school. Besides reading books, he loves Legos, acting, and playing the trumpet. He is also a proud Boy Scout.

Resources: There is a note for parents and teachers at the end of the book with suggestions about helping children make friends, learn social skills, and encourage empathy.  Armond shares his thoughts about living with Asperger’s syndrome with the hopes it will help other kids.  You may want to visit Nancy Carlson’s website for more information and a video of Nancy and Armond being interviewed on television.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Upside Down and Backwards

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – September 2014

Upside Down9781433816383_p0_v1_s260x420Upside Down and Backwards: A Sibling’s Journey Through Childhood Cancer

Julie Greves, Katy Tenhulzen, and Fred Wilkinson, Authors

Magination Press, Fiction, May 12, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 8-13

Themes: Cancer, Siblings, Family Relationships, Feelings,

Book Summary: Ever since his first ride, Bryce has been obsessed with roller coasters. The hiss of the ride starting, the anticipation, the slow climb up the first steep hill, the pause just before the car careens over the steep drop. But when Bryce’s sister Paige is diagnosed with cancer, his life become one of the craziest roller coasters he would ever ride. His parents are suddenly distracted and stressed. It seems like Paige always gets her way. Brice has trouble keeping up with school. He misses out on time with his friends. And he worries about Paige. Will his family ever get back to normal?

Why I like this book:  The roller coaster is the perfect metaphor for a sibling’s journey through childhood cancer. It is written in a matter-of-fact and understandable way. The story is vivid, realistic, upbeat and honest. It focuses on real-life issues for siblings and family members. I especially like that the book emphasizes recovery rather than dealing with a loss. Bryce narrates the story and the authors did an excellent job of exposing the confusing emotions of his character. Bryce’s world is turned upside down and backwards because his sister is diagnosed with cancer. He feels like he’s also riding the “cancer coaster.” There are midnight trips to the emergency room with Paige, but no one bothers to tell him. He feels forgotten when his parents don’t pick him up after school or don’t make a baseball game where he hits his first home run. Yet he cares about his sister and shaves his head when she loses her hair to chemo treatments. A sibling support group become a refuge because the other kids actually get what his life if like. The authors really got this story right and I highly recommend it for siblings of cancer patients and their parents.

Resources: There is a very helpful six-page guide at the back of the book with suggestions for siblings on how to take care of themselves, stay connected, talk to friends, discuss their feelings, deal with guilt, seek out a support group, and face  the future.

About the Authors: The authors share a passion for supporting patients and their families throughout the entire cancer journey in their work at Seattle Children’s Hospital. This passion  motivated them to write a book and create resources for siblings.

Julie Greves, CCLS,  is a certified child life specialist, where she has spent over 10 years working with pediatric oncology patients. Katy Tenhulzen, CCLS, is a certified child life specialist who has had the opportunity to support pediatric hematology and oncology patients and families since 2002.  Fred Wilkinson, LICSW, has been an oncology social worker focusing on psychological trauma since 2001.