Rainforest Adventure

untitledRainforest Adventure: A Fun and Educational Kids Yoga Poem Book

Thereza Howling, Author

Luciana Lastre Conceicao, Illustrator

CreateSpace Independent Publishing,  Nonfication, March 28, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 2-10

Themes: Yoga for children, Poetry, Rainforest, Imagination

Opening: “Beautiful and vast rainforests have many trees clustered together. Being warm year-round with lots of rain make up for their humid weather.” (Pose: tree)

Book Synopsis: The Rainforest Adventure book was created with the intention of sharing some of the good things that happened during Kids Yoga classes. Much like lessons at school or homeschool, we can adapt yoga poses to any theme we would like. The theme for this book is presented in the form of a poem to keep up with the attention span of the younger kids while also showing older kids that poems can be quite interesting, full of action and color, and ready to come alive! By doing the poses illustrated next to the verses, we can make this little adventure turn into reality, and learn in a fun way.

What I like about this book: Thereza Howling has written a book that teaches children about yoga postures that will help them learn to better focus, tune into feelings and sensations, release stress, and encourage imagination. She has used a rainforest theme and cleverly adapted yoga poses to showcase its many wonders: a tree, waterfall, monkey, snake, lizard, parrot,  butterfly, and dolphin. The text is simple, fun and engaging. The double-page spread has a specific pose with instructions on the left side of the page. The right side of the page has colorful and lively illustrations that relate to each pose. This is a very creative effort by the author and illustrator. A portion of the proceeds for the book will go to the Rainforest Alliance, an organization committed to help rainforests all around the world.

Resources: The first page of the book explains how to use the book in a safe way. The end pages offer more ways to use this book that encourage creativity and imagination.  There are two sets of eight yoga memory pose cards.  Visit Thereza Howling’s website for more ideas for poses within the poems and other activities related to the book. The author is a certified yoga instructor and teaches children, teens and adults in Washington State.

Fly Away

Fly Away9781442460089_p0_v3_s260x420Fly Away

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Margaret K. McElderry Books, Fiction, April 2014

Suitable for ages: 7 -10

Themes: Family Life, Brothers and sisters, Floods, Farms, Poets, Music

Book Jacket: “Family means — offering help when it’s not asked for, accepting help when you think you don’t need it, sharing joys, keeping secrets, and singing your song. Unless you’re Lucy and you can’t carry a tune. Lucy thinks she has no voice. But family means — even if you’re sure you can’t sing, you’ll be heard.”

Synopsis: Lucy and her family (and Mama’s chickens) pack into an old Volkswagen bus and travel across Minnesota to spend the summer with her Aunt Frankie in North Dakota. They time their annual visit to help Aunt Frankie plan for the flooding of the Red River.  When they reach the Red River, it is high and flowing fast.  Lucy’s mother, Maggie, remembers the dangers from her childhood.

Lucy has a secret. Everyone in her family sings, but she can’t. Her father, Boots, loves opera, her mother likes Langhorne Slim and her younger sister, Gracie, sings in a high perfect voice. When Lucy opens her mouth nothing comes out. Even her little brother Teddy, who can’t talk, can sing. He sneaks into her bedroom at night and coaxes Lucy to sing with him. His sweet “la la la’s” are pitch perfect and no one knows but Lucy. As the flood waters recede and the house is safe, another crisis occurs when Teddy turns up missing. Will Lucy find her voice and save him in a way no one else can?

Why I like this book: With the heavy rains and major flooding we are experiencing across the country, Patricia MacLachlan chooses the perfect time to release a new book for children about this phenomenon of nature. It is a story that touches the readers emotions. I love the quirky nature of Lucy’s family, the secrets, the fears, the joys and the strong family bonds that keep the family afloat during a dangerous flood.  Fly Away is poetic and written simply for young readers wanting to read longer chapter books. The plot is engaging, well-paced and full of adventure. This is a great summer read and is 107 pages.

Patricia MacLachlan is a Newberry Medalist for her book Sarah, Plain and Tall. I reviewed her powerful 2013 picture book about grief and renewal, Snowflakes Fall, which was dedicated to the families of Newtown and Sandy Hook, CT.  I also reviewed The Truth of Me, another middle grade novel about complicated family relationships.

 

 

 

Leah’s Voice

Leah's Voice9781612442402_p0_v1_s260x420Leah’s Voice

Lori DeMonia, Author

Monique Turchan, Illustrator

Halo Publishing International, Fiction, 2013

Suitable for ages: 5-8 years

Themes: Autism Spectrum, Siblings, Differences, Compassion, Kindness, Special Needs

Opening: Logan stood at the window waiting with excitement. Her friend Abby was coming over for her very first play date. As soon as a car pulled in the drive, Logan yelled out, “She’s here!” 

Synopsis: Logan looks forward to a play date with her friend Abby. She introduces Abby to her older sister Leah. They play a board game and invite Leah to play. But Leah leaves the room after her turn. Abby is upset that Leah won’t stay and play. Logan explains that her sister is uncomfortable around new people. Abby tells Logan that “next time we’ll play at my house.” Logan is sad about how her friend treats Leah and wonders why she doesn’t like her. Logan thinks about the similarities and differences between her and Leah. Her mother takes them to a movie and Leah has a melt down and ruins the day. Logan is angry and confused. Her parents explain that Leah has autism and that’s why she doesn’t talk much and gets upset easily. Logan tries to be patient and focuses on what Leah loves best, drawing pictures.

Why I like this book: Lori DeMonia knows first hand the confusion and challenge for a sibling who has an autistic sister or brother.  It is a fictional story inspired by her daughters. The story is told with such simplicity that young children will be able to read and understand. Siblings don’t know how to explain it to their friends. They are embarrassed by their behavior and angry when they have meltdowns and ruin family outings. Leah’s Voice is an important story about accepting differences and treating others with respect and kindness. It is perfect for the classroom. Monique Turchan’s illustrations are colorful and lively. They beautifully capture the emotion of the story.

Awards:  2014 Temple Grandin Outstanding Literary Work of the Year award from the Autism Society of America, the Mom’s Choice Award, the New York Book Festival 2013 Honorable Mention Award,  and the London Book Festival 2013 Honorable Mention Award.

Resources: Visit the website for Leah’s Voice to  see Leah’s artwork and find printable pages. For information about autism visit the Austism Society website.

Bad Bye, Good Bye — Book Giveaway

Bad Bye9780547928524_p0_v1_s260x420Bad Bye, Good Bye

Deborah Underwood, Author

Jonathan Bean, Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, 2014

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Moving, Packing up a household, Saying good-bye, New home and friends

Opening: “Bad day/Bad box/Bad mop/Bad blocks/Bad truck/Bad guy/Bad wave/Bad bye.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: Change is hard. And when you’re moving away from your old home and your old friends, GOOD BYE can feel like BAD BYE.  But could your new town hold surprises that turn BAD BYE into a GOOD BYE again? BAD BYE, GOOD BYE is perfect for moving day or any of life’s tough transitions.

Why I like this book: Deborah Underwood uses minimal text in the form of two-word phrases on each page to tell this heartwarming story about a family moving. Jonathan Bean’s colorful collage-like watercolor illustrations show the roller coaster of emotions the boy and girl feel as pack up their home, say goodbye to friends and travel by car to a new city,  house and school. The story has a nice rhythmic feel as well as rhyming. “New house/New hall/New room/New wall.” For some children change is harder than for others. This book will be a great comfort for children on the move this summer to new homes before the next school year begins. BAD BYE, GOOD BYE  can be used when there are other physical changes and separations (divorce, job or military) and grief.

Deborah Underwood is the New York Times best-selling San Francisco-base author of The Quiet Book and The Loud Book. Visit Deborah’s  website.

Jonathan Bean’s illustration accolades include the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and the Ezra Jack Keats Award.  Visit Jonathan’s website.

Book Giveaway:  I will be giving away one copy of BAD BYE, GOOD BYE. All you have to do is leave a comment and indicate whether you’d like to be in the drawing. I will announce the winner next Wednesday, June 25.

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

IIce Doge9780547899268_p0_v1_s260x420ce Dogs

Terry Lynn Johnson

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 10-14

Themes: Sled dogs, Alaska, Wilderness, Survival, Grief

Opening: All eight of my dogs are stretched in front of me in pairs along the gangline. They claw the ground in frustration as the loudspeaker blares. “Here’s team number five. Our hometown girl, fourteen-year-old Victoria Secord!”

Synopsis:  Victoria is a dogsled racer in Alaska. Since the recent death of her father, who taught her everything she knows about being a musher, she pours herself into training her dogs and preparing for the White Wolf Classic. On a routine run, she comes across Chris who is injured in a snowmobile accident. A fast-approaching blizzard catches Victoria by surprise and covers her sled trails. She finds herself lost in the frozen wilderness with little food or protection. Her real race becomes one of survival against time. Will she be able to save Chris and herself?

Why I like this book: This inspiring and gripping story by Terry Lynn Johnson, is a page turner. Johnson, who once owned  and raced 18 Alaskan huskies, knows how beautiful, peaceful and unforgiving the wilderness can be. Reading a novel based on Johnson’s knowledge and experience makes for great realistic fiction and a very vivid setting. Her plot is fast-paced with high-adventure, danger, courage and hope. Her main characters, Victoria and Chris, are well-developed. The story is narrated by Victoria, a fiercely independent, strong, brave, and smart teen coping with the tragic death of her father in the wilderness. She is determined to carry on his legacy as a musher. Chris, a city boy from Toronto, offers a bit of comic relief. Their relationship is full of tension, emotion and complexity. He steps up to the plate and works with Victoria in a race for their survival. Ice Dogs is a spellbinding story that will appeal to young readers. Visit Terry Lynn Johnson at her website where you can view a video, read interesting information, and check out her blog.  Johnson is a conservation officer in Whitefish Falls, Ontario, Canada.

A special thank you to Amanda at Born Bookish, who first introduced me to Ice Dogs. Click on her blog to read her review.

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord

Half a Chance9780545035330_p0_v2_s260x420Half a Chance

Cynthia Lord, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Feb. 25, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Moving, Photography, Friendship, Dementia

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Lucy Emery’s family has moved to an old cottage on a New Hampshire lake. Her father is a famous photographer and takes off on another travel shoot before the family settles. Lucy misses her father and is tired of starting over again.  When she discovers that her father is judging a photography contest for youth, she is eager to enter to see if she has talent.  She enters anonymously. She studies the photo scavenger hunt list and begins to take photos of her new lake surroundings. Lucy meets her neighbor Nate and his family, who visit their  Grandmother Lilah at her cottage every summer. Nate likes Lucy’s photographs and wants to help her with the contest. Lucy enjoys being with Nate’s family and learns that his grandmother is a naturalist. Since Grandmother Lilah is in poor health, Nate invites Lucy to help with the family “Loon Patrol.” Their goal is to help keep the endangered loons safe, carefully document their activity in a journal and report their findings. Lucy photographs the loons and  the birth of their chicks. Through her photos of the loons, the mountains, the lake and the community, Lucy also captures pictures of Grandmother’ Lilah’s memory loss, something that Nate’s not ready to see.

Why I like this book: This is a heartwarming coming of age story by Cynthia Lord, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor book Rules. It is a lazy summer read that is so captivating that you feel like you’re there with Lucy, Nate and the lake. Half a Chance is packed with adventure, wonder, friendship, artistic endeavors, and nature. Lord’s characters are realistic and engaging. The story is narrated by Lucy who gives readers a good feel for life on the lake. She struggles with ambivalence towards her father and a need for him to notice her photographic work. She encounters rivalry and the complexities of new friendships. Nate deals with Grandmother Lilah’s dementia. The plot is well-paced and readers won’t want the story to end. It is a fresh concept for a story with a satisfying ending. I highly recommend this book for tweens. Click here to visit Cynthia Lord’s website.

The Truth of Me

The Truth of Me9780061998591_p0_v2_s260x420The Truth of Me

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Katherine Tegen Books/Harper-Collins Publishers, Fiction, June 2013

Suitable for Ages: 6-10

Themes: Grandmothers, Dogs, Animals, Family Relationships

Opening: This is a true story. The truest story ever. You may not believe it. Your loss. But it’s true. I have a witness.”

Synopsis: Robbie’s musician parents send him and his dog, Ellie, to spend the summer with his grandmother Maddy. Robbie’s parents are so absorbed with their music that he feels unnoticed. But, he can be himself with Maddy and her relaxed way of living.  He loves listening to her stories about her adventures with animals in the woods, which no one else believes. Robbie is the only one who experiences Maddy’s gift with wild animals and how they trust her. Both Robbie and Ellie learn about the natural world through Maddy. And, Maddy shares a secret with Robbie about his mother that helps him understand his family dynamics and find “the truth of me.” With this information, Robbie finds the courage to make things right.

Why I like this book: This is a quiet book that celebrates family relationships and special gifts.  Patricia MacLachlan has written a story that is realistic, special and begging to be explored. She has a gift for writing about families and this book is no exception.  The characters are believable, the language is simple and easy for young readers, the narrative gentle and the plot engaging.  Every family has its secrets and kids will curl up with this heartwarming and emotional story as they experience the magic with Robbie and Ellie.  Patricia MacLachlan is a Newberry Medalist for her book Sarah, Plain and Tall.  I reviewed her powerful 2013 picture book about grief and renewal, Snowflakes Fall, which was dedicated to the families of Newtown and Sandy Hook, CT.

My Sister, Alicia May

My Sister Alicia9780979203596_p0_v1_s260x420,jpgMy Sister, Alicia May

Nancy Tupper Ling, Author

Shennen Bersani, Illustrator

Pleasant St. Press, Fiction, 2009

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Down Syndrome, Sisters, Bullying, Special Needs

Opening: BANG! Every morning Alicia May throws open my bedroom door. Crack! The “Stay Out!” sign falls to the floor.  “Here I am!” she crises “Rise and shine!”

Synopsis: In many ways, Rachel and Alicia are like any sisters. But Rachel knows her sister is very different, and very special. She has Down syndrome. Alicia May likes dogs and horses, is curious about ladybugs and dragonflies, talks to animals at the zoo and calls them funny names, loves to paint her nails, is friendly and gives good hugs. Sometimes Alicia May is annoying and embarrassing and Rachel doesn’t want to be around her. But, when boys on the bus tease Alicia May, Rachel is the first to stand up for her sister.

Why I like this story: This is a heartwarming story for siblings of children with Down’s syndrome. Nancy Tupper Ling based the story on the lives of two real sisters she’s close friends with.  It is a compassionate story that offers a peek into the daily life of a child with special needs and the complexities for the family. I like that the story is told from Rachel’s viewpoint.  Shennen Bersani’s illustrations are colorful pastels and almost photographic in their detail. Look at the pictures of the girls at the end of the book as she has really captured their features and personalities. Check out Nancy Tupper Ling’s website.

Resources: Contact the National Down Syndrome Society for more information on resources, success stories, transition tool kits, caring for your family and advocacy.

 

The Monstore by Tara Lazar

The Monstore9781442420175_p0_v6_s260x420The Monstore

Tara Lazar, Author

James Burks, Illustrator

Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, Fiction, 2013

Suitable for ages:4-8

Themes: Monsters, Brothers and Sisters, Problem Solving

Opening: “At the back of Frankensweet’s Candy Shoppe, under the last box of sour gums balls, there’s a trapdoor. Knock five times fast, hand over a bag of squirmy worms, and you can crawl inside…THE MONSTORE.”

Synopsis: Zach is desperate to keep his sister Gracie from snooping around his bedroom. “Keep Out” signs don’t work, so Zach visits The Monstore to purchase a monster that frightens pesky sisters. He purchases Manfred, but Manfred shows Gracie his favorite hiding place. When Manfred doesn’t work, Zack returns to the store and demands a refund. But the manager says “no returns and no exchanges.” Zach keeps returning to the store to buy more monsters, but they don’t scare Gracie. The house becomes overrun with monsters. Zach is frustrated and not sure what to do. But Gracie does.

Why I like this book:  Hilarious! This a clever and unique sibling book for children who have a MONSTROUS appetite for monster books. Tara Lazar has written a quirky and humorous story that will inspire young minds to create their own monsters.  This is wonderful bed time book that begs to be read repeatedly. James Burk’s illustrations are lively, bold and colorful. They will tickle the imaginations of both children and parents. Visit Tara Lazar at her website.

Resources:  Have children draw the monster they’d like to buy at the Monstore.  You can  fill a box with crafty materials and let your kids make their own monsters and name them.  For monster craft ideas visit Make My Own Monster   and Activity Village.

 

Waiting for Benjamin: A Story about Autism

Waiting for Benjamin9780807573648_p0_v1_s260x420Waiting for Benjamin: A Story about Autism

Alexandra Jessup Altman, Author

Susan Keeter, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Co., Fiction, 2008

Suitable for ages: 5-9

Themes: Living with a sibling with autism, Brothers, Emotional Challenges

Opening: “My name is Alexander and I was born first. Then came Benjamin. We live in a stone house with Mom and Dad. After Benjamin’s second birthday we all waited for him to talk, but he didn’t say any words. He just wiggled his fingers and rocked.”

Synopsis: Alexander’s younger brother has autism. He loves Benjamin, but finds it difficult to play with him when he stares blankly at the wall, rocks back and forth or wiggles his fingers. Even when Alexander builds a cool castle with blocks, Benjamin throws himself on the floor. Alexander is angry, frustrated and disappointed. After a visit to the doctor, Alexander’s  parents tell him that Benjamin’s brain works differently and that’s why he isn’t talking and playing. They explain that when Benjamin wiggles his fingers the doctor says it feels so good that he can’t hear anyone speaking. Alexander lays in the grass and wiggles his fingers, but it doesn’t feel good to him. He stares at the sky and wonders what Benjamin sees. Two teachers come to help Benjamin listen, talk and play. Alexander is a jealous that his brother gets special attention. He’s also embarrassed to invite friends to play at his house.

Why I like this book: This is a very helpful introduction book about autism. But, not all autistic children are the same and make the progress Benjamin does. I like how it focuses on the emotional challenges siblings face when they have an autistic brother or sister.  Many siblings experience anger, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment, worry, and jealousy.  There is a Note from the author  at the beginning of the book for parents about siblings. Since this book is written for an older age group, I think it would be helpful to include information and discussion questions for siblings to help them share their experiences and feelings. Susan Keeter’s illustrations are very colorful, expressive and match the mood of the story.

Resource: Parents Helping Parents has interesting information on Sibling of Autistic Children Get a Chance to Express Themselves.  Check out the Autism Support Network  for sibling support.