Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer

Beautiful Moon9781419707926_p0_v1_s260x420Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer

Tonya Bolden, Author

Eric Velasquez, Illustrator

Abrams Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Nov. 4, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Prayer, Bedtime, City and town life, Compassion, Kindness

Opening: The amber orb floats, washing the night with a radiant glow. Stars hide. Only city lights glitter. It’s not a silent night. Car horns beep and blare. There is music in the air. And someone calls out, “I love you!”

Book Jacket Synopsis: A young boy wakes. He has forgotten to say his prayers.  Outside his window, a beautiful harvest moon illuminates the city around him and its many inhabitants. As the moon slowly makes its way across the heavens, the boy offers a simple prayer for the homeless, for the hungry and for others.

What I like about this book:

  • The narrative is simple and straightforward.  It is very inspirational, comforting and heartwarming, more than it is religious.
  • There is a balance of diversity.
  • The boy’s sincerity carries a powerful message. It is important for children to see how the boy focuses his prayers on social needs of today’s world before he focuses on his family, his teacher and his pet turtle.
  • This book will help parents have discussions with their kids about who is in need and who they may want to pray for.
  • Vasquez’s rich and beautiful illustrations are painted in oil. Each double-spread shows the moon in a different phase meaningful to the setting. As the boys prays for people with no homes, the sick to be healed or for wars to end, Vasquez highlights his prayers by showing a woman bundled up on a park bench, a man in a hospital bed and a soldier in a distant land.
  • This is a wonderful collaborative effort between the author and illustrator.

Tonya Bolden has written a number of highly regarded books for both children and adults. Maritcha: A 19th Century American Girl won a Coretta Scott King Honor Award and a James Madison Book Award. Her other books include Emancipation Proclamation, M.L.K. and Searching for Sarah Rector.

Eric Velasquez is the illustrator of numerous books, including My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart and My Uncle Martin’s Words for America, both by Angela Farris Watkins. He has received much praise for his work, including the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award and the Pura Belpre Honor for illustration.

Nobody!: A Story About Overcoming Bullying in Schools

Nobody9781575424965_p0_v1_s260x420Nobody!: A Story About Overcoming Bullying in Schools

Erin Frankel, Author

Paula Heaphy, Illustrator

Free Spirit Publishing, Fiction, May 15, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Bullying, Differences, Accountability, Relational Aggression, Self-confidence

Opening: I used to like school. But that was before somebody decided to make my life miserable. Before somebody named Kyle made me feel like a NOBODY!

Publisher Synopsis: Thomas feels like no matter what he does, he can’t escape Kyle’s persistent bullying. At school, at soccer—nowhere feels safe! “Mom said Kyle would grow over the summer and stop picking on me, but he didn’t grow up, he just grew.” With support from friends, classmates, and adults, Thomas starts to feel more confident in himself and his hobbies, while Kyle learns the importance of kindness to others.

What I love about this book:

  • Erin Frankel and Paula Heaphy, who created the popular Weird series, have published a powerful stand-alone picture book for boys about bullying. Many of the beloved characters in the Weird, Dare and Tough, appear in the background of Nobody! 
  • Readers will identify with the name-calling, insults, threats, fear, and anger. The characters are realistic and the language is simple, but edgy.
  • Thomas narrates the story. We watch him grow from the victim who doesn’t like feeling like a nobody to a more self-confident somebody. I like how his narrative is accompanied with “bubble comments” from all the characters on each page. This allows the reader to be more engaged in the story dynamics as they hear from Thomas, the bully, siblings, parents, teachers and bystanders. The bully, Kyle, also learns a few lessons.
  • Nobody! is an excellent resource for teaching school-age children good emotional techniques to stand-up for what is right, to survive and grow beyond bullying. This is another book that belongs in every school library.
  • Paula Heaphy’s stand-out illustrations are pen and ink drawings with splashes of color. They are bold, expressive, emotive and capture the action in the story. I also like her use of white space. Children will find her illustrations especially appealing.

Resources: The book concludes with “activity club” pages for kids, as well as information to help parents, teachers, counselors, and other adults foster dialogue with children about ways to stop bullying. I would pair this book with the first three books, Weird, Dare and Tough.  Visit  Erin Frankel at her website.

The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob: A Challenging Job

Blue Ocean Bob Challenges9780982961353_p0_v1_s260x420The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob: A Challenging Job

Brooks Olbrys, Author

Kevin Keele, Illustrator

Children’s Success Unlimited LLC, Fiction, Apr. 14, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Pages: 54

Themes: Oceans, Sea life, Nature, Pursuing dreams, Positive attitude, Friendship, Confidence, Gratitude

Opening: On the Island of Roses, there once lived a lad / who was looking for more than the things that he had. / He discovered his passion to safeguard the sea / and finally knew what he wanted to be. / He adopted the nickname of Blue Ocean Bob / and decided to master this challenging job.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Blue Ocean Bob loves the sea and wants to dedicate his life to protecting it. He begins a new job as assistant to Mary Marine, the Island of Rose’s leading marine biologist, and with his hummingbird guardian, Xena, by his side, works hard to carry out his duties to the sea creatures both on and off the shore. When the challenges mount, Bob seeks advice from Doc the turtle, Earl the clam, and Wallace the walrus, who each help him to develop the positive attitude he needs to succeed.

What I like about this book:

  • Brooks Olbrys has written another dynamic ocean adventure about Bob, a boy on a journey to pursue his dream of becoming a marine biologist and protecting all life in the Sea of Kerchoo. Bob is a great role model for children.
  • Although Blue Ocean Bob: A Challenging Job is a chapter book for emerging readers, it also can be read as a picture book to younger children. There is a special rhythm to the text and there is breathtaking artwork on every page.
  • The plot is strong and packed with adventure as Bob overcomes many hurdles.  Each chapter presents a different challenge for Bob: training a young seal to swim, hunt and survive on her own; clearing garbage floating near the pier and accidentally entangling a pelican in his net; warning the whales and dolphins that a storm is brewing; missing his marine science class and almost giving up; and freeing a stingray from a fishing line in deep waters.
  • The characters are realistic, believable and endearing. Xena is a a great sidekick, warning Bob about dangers (metaphor for Bob’s doubt) and adding some comic relief. Bob learns valuable lessons about forgiveness, confidence, communications and gratitude.
  • Kevin Kelle’s vibrant and rich illustrations of the ocean and sea life fill every page. They are engaging and draw the reader into the story. Make sure you check out the end pages to view a map of the Island of Roses.

Resources: Parents and teachers can download a free activity guide on The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob website. You can preview the first chapter of the book for free and view a trailer for the first book in the series. This is a unique series because Olbrys has used “timeless principles of achievement,” to encourage children to dream big — Think it. See it. Believe it. Achieve it.

Voices Are Not for Yelling

Voices Are Not for Yelling9781575425016_p0_v1_s260x420Voices Are Not for Yelling

Elizabeth Verdick, Author

Marieka Heinlen, Illustrator

Free Spirit Publishing, Nonfiction, April 20, 2015

Suitable for Ages:  Board Book, 0-3, Paperback, 4-7

Themes: Children learning how to use their indoor and outdoor voices

Opening: What do you use your voice for? Talking “Hi!” Asking questions “How are you?” Telling jokes. Laughing . . . Ha, ha! Singing, la, la, la!”

Book Jacket Synopsis:  As every grown-up knows, yelling comes naturally to children. This friendly book introduces and reinforces where and when to use an “indoor voice” or and “outdoor voice.” Simple words and vivid illustrations show the places and times for an indoor voice, the ways people ask us to speak more quietly, and situations when yelling might occur.  Children learn how they can quiet their voices and talk about a problem, supported by a simple reminder: “Think before you yell, and use your words well!”

Why I like this book:

  • This book is available in two versions, a board book for children 0-3 years of age who haven’t gained control of their emotions, and a longer and more in-depth paperback for children 4-7 years of age.
  • The author uses simple words to show children when and where they should use an indoor voice (in a library, classroom, car, movie theater) and an outdoor voice (playing outside, laughing).
  • With toddlers, frustration, yelling, screaming and throwing tantrums are normal.  The book will help small children understand why it’s better to use an indoor voice so people “will hear their words and not the yelling.” It will also teach them how to calm down and ask for help so they can get what they need.
  • Preschool and primary school children will benefit from the paperback book, as they are more advanced and socially conscious of those around them. They will be more likely to understand the concepts being encouraged and how yelling can have an impact on others. They are asked simple questions about what is happening inside them when their voices get louder and louder.
  • Marieka Heinlen’s illustrations are simple, bold, colorful and lively. Every page has a different groups of characters that are diverse and expressive.  The cover on the paperback book is priceless as it quickly identifies what happens when a child yells.
  • The board book is a must for parents with toddlers and the paperback book is perfect to have on hand in the classroom.

Resources: The book alone is a resource with many useful tips for parents and teachers to practice with children. And there are quiet-time gestures that children can learn.  Voices Are Not for Yelling is part of Free Spirit’s the Best Behavior series.  Below are titles in both board and paperback books.

Elizabeth Verdick is the author of more than 40 books for children and teens, including the Best Behavior series, the Happy Healthy Baby and Toddler Tools board book series, and the Laugh and Learn series for preteens. She has written Stand Up to Bullying! and The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents). 

VoicesAreNotForYelling_BBWords Are Not for Huting9781575421568_p0_v2_s260x420Tales Are Not for Pulling9781575421810_p0_v2_s260x420Germs Are Not for Sharing9781575421971_p0_v2_s260x420

World Autism Awareness Day and Month 2015

World-autism-awareness-dayToday is World Autism Awareness Day, designated in 2007 by the United Nations to promote global awareness. Autism has no racial, ethnic or socio-economic boundaries, so it is important to focus on AWARENESS on this growing public health concern. It is also an important time to highlight the talents and gifts of those on the Autism Spectrum.

Many  Iconic landmarks around the world will Light It Up Blue to show their support today. Among the 2,000 buildings going blue last year were the: NY Stock Exchange, Empire State Building, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, Niagara Falls, Al Anoud Tower in Saudi Arabia, Cairo Tower in Egypt, Great Buddha at Hyogo in Japan, CN Tower in Canada and Sydney Opera House in Australia.  At the end of this post, I have listed many of the autism organizations involved in this special awareness day and month.

Since April is National Autism Awareness Month in the U.S., I will share the titles and authors of 31 books that I have reviewed in the Autism Spectrum. You can click on Autism Spectrum and Asperger’s Syndrome in the “Topics” side bar to the right of my blog to find all the reviewed and recommended books. The titles include Picture Books (PB), Middle Grade (MG) and Young Adult (YA) novels, and books for Parents.

Picture Books

Anthony Best, Davene Fahy

Armond Goes to a Party: A Book about Asperger’s and Friendship, Nancy Carlson

Ellie Bean: The Drama Queen, Jennie Harding

Ian’s Walk, Laurie Lears

I’m Here, Peter Reynolds

In Jesse’s Shoes, Beverly Lewis

Leah’s Voice, Lori DeMonia

My Brother Charlie, Holly and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

Russel’s World: A Story for Kids about Autism, Charles A. Amenta, III, M.D.

Story for Kids about Autism, Charles A. Amenta, III, M.D.

Understanding Sam and Asperger’s Syndrome, Clarabelle van Niekerk & Liezl Venter, MA, CCC-SLP

Waiting for Benjamin: A Story about Autism, Alexandra Jessup Altman,

Wings of Epoh, Gerda Weissmann Klein and Peter Reynolds

Middle Grade

Autism, The Invisible Chord, Barbara Cain

Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes, Jennifer Elder

How to Talk to an Autistic Kid, Daniel Stefanski

Mocking Bird, Katherine Erskine

Rain Reign, Ann M. Martin

Rules, Cynthia Lord

The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders, by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve, M.D.

Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction

Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism, Arthur and Carly Fleischmann (YA/Adult)

I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism, Elizabeth M. Bonker and Virginia Breen

Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X. Stork

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, Sy Montgomery (MG/YA/Adult)

Trilogy of books: Wild Orchid, Waiting for No One, and White Bicycle, Beverly Brenna (YA Trilogy)

Parents

A Friend Like Henry, Nuala Gardner

Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism, Arthur and Carly Fleischmann (Also for parents)

Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism and Love from His Extraordinary Son, Tom Fields-Meyer

Not My Boy, Rodney Peete

Resources: There are many local and national organizations promoting Autism Awareness Month. Check out Autism Speaks, the National Autism Association, the Autism Society, The Arc, The Autism Now Center for information, resources, research and tool kits.   And check out Craig Wiesner’s website at Reach and Teach to view his wonderful post on autism today.  And, please take time to listen to a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome talk about how to interact with kids on the Autism Spectrum.

A Boy and a Jaguar – Stuttering

A Boy and Jaguar9780547875071_p0_v1_s260x420A Boy and a Jaguar

Alan Rabinowitz, Author

Catia Chien, Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Biography, May 6, 2014

Winner: 2015 Schneider Family Book Award

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Stuttering, Wildlife conservationist, Endangered animals

Opening: I’m standing in the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo.  Why is this jaguar kept in a bare room? I wonder. I lean toward my favorite animal and whisper to her. “What are you doing?” My father asks. I try to explain, but my mouth freezes, just as I knew it would. I am a stutterer…

Book Jacket Synopsis: Alan loves animals, but the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo makes him sad.  Why are they all alone in bare cages? More than anything, he wants to be their champion –their voice — but he stutters uncontrollably. Except when he talks to animals…Then he is fluent. Follow the life of the man Time magazine calls “The Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation” as he searches for his voice and fulfils a promise to speak for animals, and people who cannot speak for themselves.

Why I like this book: This is one of the  few books I’ve found for children who stutter. Alan Rabinowitz’ uplifting story focuses on courage, ability, healing, finding one’s voice and making a difference in the world. This is a very important message for children who stutter. The book is based on the true story of the author, who stuttered as a child. The narrative is in first person, which works very well as Alan deals with being put in a “disturbed class” and feels “broken.” He gets through school by using tricks that stutterers use. It is Alan’s remarkable relationship with animals who listen and understand him, that saves him. He talks to his animal friends at the zoo and his pets at home, without stuttering. He becomes passionate about the condition of zoo animals and makes a promise to be their voice one day. Rabinowitz finds his voice as he follows his passion to become a wildlife conservationist and saves big cats. It is important for children to see themselves in role models like Rabinowitz. Catia Chien’s breathtaking illustrations are lush and really evoke the emotion and loneliness felt by Alan. At the end of the book is a Q&A with the author about stuttering, bullying and his work with animals. Visit Rabinowitz’ website.

Resources: I encourage you to visit the Stuttering Foundation for information, free resources, support groups, summer camps and a section that is devoted to kids sharing their stories about how stuttering has affected them — fabulous website. There are 3 million Americans who stutter, 68 million people worldwide.  It affects males four times more than females.  You will be surprised at the long list of famous people and celebrities who stuttered as children and teens. National Stuttering Awareness Week is May 11-17, 2015.

Hansel and Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

Hansel & Gretel9781615992508_p0_v2_s260x420Hansel 0& Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

Jewel Kats, Author

Claudia Marie Lenart, Illustrator

Loving Healing Press, Fiction, Oct. 10, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Down syndrome, Fairy tale, Special needs

Opening: “One fateful night, a storm ripped through Cottage Country…The rain finally stopped pouring days and days later. Cottage Country was deserted. The only people left were the fisherman and his family.”

Synopsis: A storm sweeps through a village and a fisherman and his two children, Hansel and Gretel, are the only survivors. Their food runs out and Hansel and Gretel are sent to search for food in the forest. Their mother protests that Hansel is sick and too young for such an adventure. But, Hansel’s father disagrees and says he has Down syndrome and that they can’t always protect him forever.  Hansel takes the lead and bravely runs into the forest and stumbles upon the witch’s candy house.  Will Hansel be able to outwit and negotiate with the witch?

Why I like about this book:

  • Jewel Kats retells this magical story with the main character, Hansel, who has Down syndrome — a different ability.
  • It is the perfect read for World Down Syndrome Day, March 21.
  • This book will help readers look beyond disabilities and see Hansel as a clever, capable, determined and successful hero, who faces the witch with wit and kindness.
  • The story breaks stereotypes and touches on prejudices about what a child with a disability can achieve. And there is an unexpected twist with the witch, who also shouldn’t be judged by her appearance.
  • Claudia Lenart’s illustrations are breathtaking, whimsical, and contribute to the book’s appeal. Lenart is a fiber artist who pokes wool and other natural fibers, like alpaca, with a barbed needle to sculpt her soft characters and scenes.  This is the perfect medium for a fairy tale.

Resources: Check out the website for World Down Syndrome Day, where you can find information, personal stories, worldwide events and how to participate. And visit Jewel Kats and Claudia Marie Lenart at their websites.