Each Kindness

Each Kindness9780399246524_p0_v2_s260x420Each Kindness

Jacqueline Woodson, Author

E. B. Lewis, Illustrator

Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4 -8

Themes: Acceptance, Kindness, Friendship

OpeningOne morning, as we settled into our seats, the classroom door opened and the principal came in.  She had a girl with her, and she said to us, “This is Maya.”  Maya looked down at the floor.  I think I heard her whisper Hello.

Synopsis:  When Chloe first meets Maya, she notices her clothes are old and tattered and the strap on one of her shoes is broken.   The teacher assigns Maya to sit next to Chloe.  Maya manages to smile and say hello, but Chloe turns and looks out the window.  Chloe and her friends play and eat lunch together, but ignore Maya’s attempts to join them.  Whenever Mayas asks to play with the other girls, they say no.  Then one day Maya’s seat is empty.  After their teacher talks about kindness and its ripple effect, Chloe realizes that she and her friends have been wrong in their treatment of Maya.  Is it to late?

Why I like this book:  I am a Jacqueline Woodson fan.  She takes on relevant subjects for children, like kindness. Her text is lyrical.  Each Kindness is a story that will stay with a child.  I am pleased there is no tidy ending in this story.  Maya is gone.  Chloe is left to think about her actions and how she lost an opportunity to make things right with Maya.  The soft watercolor illustrations by E.B. Lewis really set the tone for the book and convey a lot of emotion.  The last illustration is priceless and beautifully expresses Chloe’s sadness and feeling of loss.  A beautiful collaboration between Woodson and Lewis.  I also reviewed another book they collaborated on The Other Side.

Resources:  This is a great discussion book for the classroom.  It focuses on the ripple effect of our actions towards others.   Visit Jacqueline Woodson at her website and learn more.

Awards:  Coretta Scott King Honor Book, 2013 Jane Addams Peace Award, 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award, Best Book of 2012 – School Library Journal

Millie Fierce

Millie Fierce141268607Millie Fierce

Jane Manning, Author and Illustrator

Philomel Books, Fiction, August 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 3 and up

Themes:  Feeling left out, Behavior, Self-acceptance, Self-esteem

Opening/Synopsis“Millie was too short to be tall, too quiet to be loud, and to plain to be fancy.  When she spoke at show-and-tell, hardly anyone listened.  When she walked into a room hardly anyone looked up.”  One day Millie is drawing a flower with chalk on the sidewalk, when three girls from her school walk over her flower until nothing is left but a big smudge.   “I’m not a smudge,” she said.  Millie is tired of not being noticed and comes up with a plan.    She frizzes her hair, sharpens her nails, stomps, and growls.  Her behavior becomes obnoxious and wild so people will notice her.  She paints the dog’s face blue, scratches the blackboard with her nails, pulls the buds off her neighbor’s flowers, and dumps jelly beans all over the classroom floor.  The kids at school notice Millie now, but she doesn’t receive the reaction she hoped for.  Millie wishes she were invisible again.  Perhaps being fierce isn’t the best way to get noticed.

What I like about this book:  You can’t help but love Millie and feel her pain.  What child hasn’t felt invisible and left out.  No child wants to feel like a smudge.   Jane Manning has written a fun and important story about how far a little girl will go to get attention.  This is a great lesson that will stay with children for a long time.  Being mean doesn’t mean kids will like you.  Kids will definitely identify with Millie.   Although Millie’s behavior is extreme, it’s a very funny book because of her creative  and outrageous character.   It also teaches without preaching.  Manning’s illustrations are vibrant and colorful and capture Millie’s expressive behavior to a tee.  Manning says that “Millie Fierce must have been rattling around inside me for a long time.”  “I remember feeling like Millie on many different occasions when I was a kid – like I wasn’t being seen, or heard, or considered.”   She has illustrated dozens of books.

Resources:  Great discussion book for the classroom.  Ask kids if they ever feel like Millie and to share situations  when they have felt invisible and left out.  Do they feel sad, hurt or mad?   How did they handle the situation?  What advice would they give Millie?   Have kids write a letter to Millie, or draw an exaggerated self-portrait of themselves that shows their sad, angry or wild side.

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

My New Granny

My New Granny184520174My New Granny

Elisabeth Steinkellner, Author

Michael Roher, Illustrator

Connie Straddling Morby, Translation

Sky Pony Press, Fiction, September 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 4-8

Themes:  Grandmother, Aging, Dementia, Family, Love, Acceptance

Opening/SynopsisMy old Granny used to make a fuss about my hairdo.  “Fini, what have you done to your beautiful hair again?”  she sighed and shook her head, not understanding.”  Fini’s Granny used to comment on her strange hair styles, help her feed the ducks in the park and cooked exotic meals from the strange places she visited.  Fini’s Granny has changed.  She likes her unusual hairdo, eats the bread crumbs instead of feeding them to the ducks and moves into Fini’s house.  Fini is puzzled by Granny’s strange behavior and isn’t sure how she feels about the changes.  Granny used to take care of her, now she and her family have to help Granny.

Why I like this book:  Elisabeth Steinkellner has written a touching and empathetic story about an aging grandparent who is suffering from dementia.  She realistically captures Fini’s confusion about the changes that occur when her Granny is diagnosed with dementia.  But Fini learns to love and accept the changes of her new Granny.   With the growing number of older adults affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, this is a helpful resource for children.  The author is from Austria and the book has been translated into English by Connie Straddling Morby.

Michael Roher’s illustrations have  an Austrian flavor.  His technique is unusual and he offered to share his process.  “I used colored ink (fine-pen and marker) as well as red and brown pencils and pastels,” says Roher.  “For some surfaces I used a monoprint-technique to create interesting structures.  I used a roll to apply the color (water-soluble color for linoleum-prints) on the paper, cut out the pieces I needed and glued them onto my pictures.”  His illustrations are unique, warm and show compassion among the characters.

Resources:  Parents may want to check out the Kids and Teen page of the Alzheimer’s Association and a post from the Carolina Parent blog about  Talking to Kids About Aging Grandparents.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work. 

 

Wings of EPOH – Perfect Picture Book

Wings of EPOH

Gerda Weissmann Klein, Author

Peter H. Reynolds, Illustrator

FableVision, Inc., Fiction, 2008

Suitable for:  For All Ages

Themes:  Autism Spectrum Disorder,  Hope, Courage, Friendship

Opening/Synopsis “Matthew was running.   He was running very fast, skipping over the bright green grass, over the yellow dandelions and the smiling daisies, with the wind singing in his hair.”  This is a story about a boy who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and his journey to find meaning, acceptance and friendship in a world that is confusing to him.  For Matthew, lights are too bright and sounds are too loud.  He has trouble communicating his thoughts and feelings until he meets a butterfly named EPOH (Hope spelled backward).  EPOH and Matthew communicate through their thoughts.  EPOH shares the struggles she’s faced in her life.  Matthew finds this uplifting friendship changes the way he views his own difficulties, and finds courage and hope.

Why I like this book:   Even though this book is about a boy with autism, it has universal appeal for all children.  Every child will at some point feel left out, isolated and struggle to fit in.   It is a great book for the classroom to help children deal with differences and inclusion.  Children will identify with Matthew.   This is an inspiring book written by Gerda Weissmann Klein, a well-known author, lecturer and Holocaust survivor whose story was made into the film, One Survivor Remembers.   Peter H. Reynolds’ rich illustrations bring Wings of Epoh to life.  Reynolds has also written a book on autism, I’m Here, which I reviewed last fall.

Resources:  Gerda and Peter collaborated on the book, and a DVD film of Wings of Epoh.   The DVD includes a user guide Tips for Friends, Parents, and Teachers, developed to help teachers and parents provide strategies for social communication to a child or student with ASD or other social differences.   The tips are to be used as part of a discussion following the film.  There also is an Educator’s Activity Guide.  For information and resources contact FableVision Learning.

Gerda is donating a portion of the proceeds of Wings of Epoh to the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), another great resource for parents.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

Just Because by Rebecca Elliott

Just Because

Rebecca Elliott, author and illustrator

Lion UK,  April 2011, Fiction

Suitable for:  Children 3 to 8 years

Theme:  Disability, Acceptance, Sibling Friendship

Synopsis:  “My big sister Clemmie is my best friend.  She can’t walk, talk, move around much, cook macaroni, pilot a plane, juggle or do algebra.  I don’t know why she doesn’t do these things.  Just because.”  Toby’s sister Clemmie is his best friend.  She can’t walk, talk, move around very much or cook macaroni.  Toby recognizes the differences, but doesn’t really understand why.  Just because.   Clemmie makes noises, wears silly hats,  makes funny faces and makes Toby laugh.  Just because.  Clemmie in turn doesn’t mind Toby making loud noises, chasing the cat, or eating crayons.   Just because.  And, when there is a thunderstorm, Toby gets scared but Clemmie keeps him calm.  Just because that’s how things are between them.  There is a lovely simplicity about this story.

Why I like this book:  It is a heartwarming story about the strong bond between siblings.  I find her book refreshing because it doesn’t mention the word disability.  The main theme is about the unconditional love and acceptance of a brother and sister.  Elliott’s illustrations are colorful, bold and magical.   It is a book that families who have a child with a disability will find endearing and helpful.  Use this book to encourage sibling friendship.

Activity:  It’s a tough balancing act for parents who have a child with a special need.  It is important to include the children in joint activities.  But it is important that each child in the family receives special time with the parents.  Acknowledge the feelings of both the child with a special needs and the siblings.  Have the siblings draw pictures about how they feel.  Involve the sibling in the care of a disabled child.   Seek out support groups related to your child’s disability.  For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books.

The Sandwich Swap

The Sandwich Swap, is written by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, with Kelly DiPucchio, and illustrated by Tricia Tusa in lively pastel colors.  The true story is based on an experience by the author in school.  She uses her experience to encourage kids not to fight over the small things and to be open-minded when they encounter something new or strange.

Lily and Salma are best friends at school.  They played together and ate their lunches together.  Lily eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Salma eats hummus and pita sandwiches for lunch.  They both are revolted by the other’s lunch.  One day there is a breaking point, and the two little girls let food get in the way of their friendship.  They make judgements about the sandwiches being yucky and gross.  They story escalates and divides the school.  Will they repair their friendship?

This is a wonderful book for home and the classroom.  It provides teachers an opportunity to have discussions with kids about differences, openness, tolerance, acceptance, sharing and friendship.  Queen Rania is one of the world’s prominent advocates for children.  Her book promotes cross-cultural understanding.