Rain Reign – Middle Grade

Rain Reign9780312643003_p0_v2_s260x420Rain Reign

Ann M. Martin, Author

Feiwel and Friends, Fiction, Oct. 7, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Winner: 2015 Charlotte Huck Award Winner and the 2015 Schneider Family Book Award

Themes: Animals, Autism Spectrum, Homonyms, Separation, Friendship, Family Relationships, Bravery, Hope

Pages: 223

Opening: “I am Rose Howard and my first name has a homonym. To be accurate, it has a homophone, which is a word that’s pronounced the same as another word but spelled differently My homophone names is Rows.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She’s thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein) which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose’s obsessions, her rules, or the other things that make her different–not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father. When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose’s father should not have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.

Why I like this book: Rain Reign is told from Rose’s point of view. Superb storytelling by Ann Martin who helps her readers experience Rose’s high-functioning mind as she navigates her autistic world. This is not a story about disability, or autism, but a story about a fifth grader who uses her unique abilities and strengths to break some of her rules and routines to search for her lost dog, Rain. Martin’s narrative is seamless and gripping.  Her characters are believable with strong personalities, characteristics and quirks. The story is as captivating and creative as it is heartbreaking. It is set in a small rural town that is ravaged by a hurricane. The plot is well-paced with just the right amount of tension to keep readers intrigued, engaged and guessing. This is a realistic story that is emotionally honest and filled with heart.

Ann M. Martin is the author of Ten Rules for Living with My Sister, Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life, and Everything for a Dog, all from Feiwel and Friends. She won a Newbery Honor Award for A Corner of the Universe, and is the author of the beloved Baby-sitters Club series.

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.

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.

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.

 

World Autism Awareness Day – April 2

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.  It’s also an important time to highlight the talents and gifts of those on the Autism Spectrum.

Since April is National Autism Awareness Month in the U.S., I will be reviewing a few autism books this month and throughout the year.

Today I will share the titles and authors of 22 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), Young Adult (YA) and books for Parents.

Picture Books

Anthony Best, Davene Fahy

Ellie Bean: The Drama Queen, Jennie Harding

Ian’s Walk, Laurie Lears

I’m Here, Peter Reynolds

In Jesse’s Shoes, Beverly Lewis

My Brother Charlie, Holly and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

Russel’s World: A 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

Wings of Epoh, Gerda Weissmann Klein

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

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)

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 Autism SocietyThe Arc,  The Autism Now Center for information, resources, research and tool kits.

Autism, The Invisible Cord

Autism Invisible Cord9781433811913_p0_v1_s260x420Autism, The Invisible Cord:  A Sibling’s Diary

Barbara Cain, Author

Magination Press, Fiction, 2013

Themes:  Autism Spectrum, Sibling Relationships, Family Relationships

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Opening“If you were to see him riding his bike, smiling in the wind, you’d never know.  Ezra looks like any other sixth grader with faded jeans, turned-around cap, and messy bunch of butterscotch-colored curls.  You see, my brother is like any other eleven-year–old…except when he isn’t.  Like today.”

Synopsis:  Jenny’s younger brother, Ezra, has autism.   She shares her story about life with Ezra in a diary she writes daily.  Jenny is a 14-year-old student trying to balance her last year in middle school, with running a friend’s campaign for class president, auditioning for the  spring musical, and worrying about protecting her brother from a school bully.  Some times Ezra can be the biggest obstacle in Jenny’s life because she feels like her brother’s keeper.  At other times Ezra can be the most amazing brother.  When Ezra gets a service dog,  the invisible cord between them begins to loosen and Jenny begins to focus more on the things that she wants to do.    She discovers she is a very talented writer and works on a special school project.  Her dream is to attend a very prestigious summer writing camp.  It is Jenny’s time to shine.

Why I like this book:  Barbara Cain has written a beautiful and realistic story about what it feels like growing up with a sibling with different abilities.   Cain has created an engaging character in Jenny who shares the daily complexities of her life with Ezra — the frustration, embarrassment, worry, joy and hurt.  Cain writes with great sensitivity and authenticity.  I highly recommend this book for kids who have a sibling with autism, and for their parents.  This is also a good middle grade read in the classroom.  Barbara Cain, MSW, is a clinical supervisor at the University of Michigan’s  Psychological Clinic and has authored many books.  She has included some from very helpful pages of back matter for siblings.  You may visit Barbara Cain on her website.

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

Anthony Best

Anthony Best9781616089610_p0_v1_s260x420Anthony Best

Davene Fahy, Author

Carol Inouye, Illustrator

Sky Pony Press, September 2012

Suitable for Ages: 5 and up

Themes:  Asperger’s Syndrome,  Autism Spectrum Disorder, Friendship, Abilities

OpeningMy next door friend is Anthony.  If you ask Anthony his name, he always says, “My name is Anthony Best and I am the best..”  But do you want to know a secret?  He’s not always the best boy.

Synopsis:  Hannah narrates the story about her friend, Anthony,  who screams when he hears loud noises, crosses streets without looking for cars, and throws sand at kids in the sandbox.  But, Hannah likes to play with Anthony, even when he wants to play by himself.  When Anthony spins, Hannah spins.  When he’s in a flipping mood, Hannah flips her pages.  Hannah knows that makes Anthony happy.  She also teaches Anthony how to play with other kids.  One day a big delivery  truck pulls up in front of Anthony’s house.  The next day Hannah hears beautiful music floating out the window and follows the sound.  She is very surprised when she discovers Anthony’s hidden talent.

Why I like this book:  Davene Fahy may show all the things that makes Anthony different from other children, but she also shows how those differences makes him special.   This is a nice story that teaches children about their autistic friends and why they act the way they do.  I especially like how Fahy has Hannah following Anthony into his world so that she can better understand her best friend.  Carol Inouye’s illustrations are colorful, and expressive.  You may want to visit Davene Fahy at her website.

Resources: There is back matter at the end with suggested resources.  But the ending of the book is a great way to start discussions with children about differences and special abilities.

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.