Willow’s Whispers

Willow27606548Willow’s Whispers

Lana Button, Author

Tania Howells, Illustrator

Kids Can Press, Fiction, 2010

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes:  Soft-spoken, Shyness, Bravery, Courage, Compassion

Opening: ” Willow’s words came out in whispers.  They were just too tiny to hear.”

Synopsis: Willow’s voice is very soft. She wishes her words would come out strong and loud so that everyone would notice her.  She is tired of sitting by herself at lunch, not being called on in class, playing by herself and getting the wrong juice at snack time because her teacher, Mrs. Post, and other children can’t hear her whispers. Her father is reassuring and tells Willow “one day your voice will wiggle its way out.”  One night she comes up with a plan and makes a magic microphone out of a cardboard tube and practices talking. When she uses her microphone at school the next day, everyone can hear her…until her magic microphone breaks. Is the magic gone? When it’s her turn to be a line leader will she find the courage to be heard?

Why I like this book: Lana Button has written a powerful and encouraging book for shy children.  I like how the font in the text becomes very tiny every time Willow speaks to exaggerate Willows painfully shy voice. I love that Willow is so desperate to have friends and participate in school activities, that she tries to find a solution to help herself. She makes the magic microphone and practices so that she can project her voice.  This is an excellent book to read in the classroom because many children will relate to Willow and it teaches them about compassion! Tania Howells simple digital characters are colorful, whimsical and show Willow’s longing to be heard. I especially love the cover where Willow is only half on the page emphasizing the book theme.

Resources: Click here to visit Lana Button’s website. Button suggests several resources to use with her book. Make magic microphones with children. All you need is a paper towel tube, markers, stickers, glitter, glue and construction paper. The author of The Crafty Crow shows how her students made microphones when they read Willow Whispers.  Button says this opens the conversation to whether the microphone was truly magic. Talk with children about how much courage it took Willow to speak up the first time, and how the microphone gave her the courage to do it.  As she practiced, it got easier. So in the end, she didn’t need it as she’d found her own voice.

Button says another effective teacher resource is creating a character map for Willow. It’s a terrific way to open discussion on how Willow feels, and what her struggles are. The children draw a picture of Willow and then add her character traits and her feelings in a web around her. Not only is this an effective language arts activity it’s a great activity for encouraging positive social relations with children and developing empathy. Here is an example of a teacher using a character map in class.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      .
Lana Button is also the author of a 2013 book, Willow Finds a Way, about bullying.
Willow Finds a Way9781771380850_p0_v1_s260x420
                                                                                                                                                                                                       .
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.

Healing Days: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

Healing Days9781433812934_p0_v1_s260x420Healing Days: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

Susan Farber Straus, Ph.D., Author

Maria Bogade, Illustrator

Magination Press., Fiction, May 18, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5 -11

Themes: Children facing trauma and tragedy, PTSD, Anxiety, Fear, Anger, Healing

Opening“Something bad happened to me.  I did not want anyone to know.  I was scared.  I was sad.  I was angry.  I was embarrassed.  I was hurt and confused.  I tried to forget.  I tried to sleep and not wake up.” 

Synopsis:  A child has had something scary happen.  We follow the child through feelings of hurt, confusion, anger and fear that the bad thing might happen again.  The child has bad dreams and is afraid of the dark.  At school there are run-ins with the teachers.  Friends notice the child isn’t fun to play with.  The child is lonely.  Finally an aunt notices differences and takes the child to talk with a therapist who helps the child share the secret.  Only then can intervention and healing begin for the child.

Why I like this book:  I am thrilled to find Susan Farber Straus’ very sensitive and comforting book due to its relevance in our world today.   Although the story is told from the viewpoint of one child, each page features pictures of a diverse group of children of all ages acting out the narrative.  This book is a fabulous tool for parents, guidance counselors and therapists to read with a child when they may suspect a trauma.  And that trauma could range from abuse, an accident, school and home violence, bullying, the sudden death of a parent or sibling to natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes and floods that are prevalent today in the world.  The book also helps children know they aren’t alone and that they can find ways to heal.  Maria Bogade’s illustrations are warm, and comforting, and beautifully show the emotion of the children.

Resources:  The book alone is a resource as the author is a clinical psychologist.  The American Psychological Association also has a list of helpful resources available online.  Also be sure to read the Note to Readers at the beginning of the book and check out the jacket flaps on the front and back pages.

Note:  I will be attending the Northern Ohio SCBWI conference this weekend, so I won’t be able to respond to your comments or posts until I return.

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.

Love You More Than You Know

Love You More9781598510553_p0_v1_s260x420Love You More Than You Know: Mothers’ Stories About Sending Their Sons and Daughters to War

Janie Reinart and Mary Anne Mayer

Gray and Company, Publishers, Non-fiction, 2009

Suitable for:  Adults, Parents, Grandparents

Themes:  Sending a Son/Daughter to War, Love, Faith and Courage

Awards:  2013 Best Cleveland Book

Opening“Mothers are not prepared to let go when their children grow up and become soldiers.”

Synopsis:  This book is a collection of 45 powerful true stories written by mothers who share a common bond of sending their sons and daughters to war and the anguish of waiting and praying for their safe return.   The idea for the stories was born out of the experiences of two authors who began writing their personal stories and sharing them with groups.  They began to receive letters from other mothers sharing their stories and messages from their children about life on the front line.  There are some families with several sons and daughters deployed at the same time.  Reading these stories shows their strength, courage, love, faith and resiliency in some challenging situations.

When Janie Reinart’s 22-year-old son Joe, an Army Specialist with the Ohio National Guard, was deployed to the Middle East in 2003 it was like “time stopped.”  “Night ran into day.  I took off my watch and put on a lapel pin with Joe’s picture inside the frame.  I wore Joe’s picture over my heart every day.”  She spent many sleepless nights, sometimes falling asleep near the computer waiting for a message that would arrive at 2 a.m.   Her son rode in a Humvee in convoys, which were easy targets.  He lost friends.  Like many of the stories I read, Janie found that the only way to deal with a deployment was by realizing she was not in control of the situation and surrendering to a higher power.  Joe returned home from his deployment in February 2005.  He completed six years of service and was honorably discharged.

Mary Anne Mayer’s son, Stan, enlisted in the Marines in 1999.  Then Sept. 11, 2001 changed the world and he was deployed.  She kept Stan’s leather jacket hanging on the back of the dining room chair.  And there was a vigil candle on her mantel, with Stan’s picture nearby.  Stan was part of a Mobile Assault Platoon (MAP), which executed offensive missions against the insurgents.  Stan’s Humvee was hit by a suicide bomber, but he miraculously survived, although he had injuries.  He carried his wounded brothers to safety.  That day he lost four friends and many were seriously wounded.   Mary Anne’s hands would “freeze on the steering wheel when she heard on the radio that 14 Marines from Stan’s unit had been killed.”  “We rushed home and sat by the phone, praying that it would not ring and fearful of the sound of cars coming up the driveway.”  Stan was not killed and eventually returned home.  But their lives had been changed forever.

Why I like this book:  This book is not about personal feelings about war, but rather the love and unrelenting pride the mothers feel for their sons and daughters.  This book is truly a labor of love and a must read for anyone who has sent a son or daughter to war.  There aren’t always happy endings.  It is also an important book for those wanting to understand the depth of a mother’s love.  This book meant a great deal to me because our 20-year-old grandson was a casualty of war in 2009, the year Janie and Mary Anne published this book.  I have always felt the children families at home are the heroes as they deal with long separations and wait for those e-mails, letters and phone calls, letting them know their loved one is okay.  They serve too!

You can visit Janie Reinart on her website Love You More Than You Know, where she shares stories about heroes, unusual reunions, military dogs, loss, victories and the daily lives military families.

The Three Sunflowers

Three Sunflowerscropped-tts-cover-for-website-headerThe Three Sunflowers

Janet Lucy, Author

Colleen McCarthy-Evans, Illustrator

Publishing by the Seas, Fiction, November 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes:  Sunflowers, Life Cycles, Nature, Courage,  Faith, Harmony, Peace, Patience, Wisdom

Opening:  “Dawn awoke early one morning washing the summer sky in fresh new shades of pink, orange and lavender.” 

Synopsis:  Life in the garden was alive with activity.   Gloria, a tall and wise sunflower, sprung up earlier in the season near a pepper tree.  She was once a black and white seed in one of the bird feeders.  She was dropped by a bird to the ground where she planted herself and grew.  Two smaller sunflowers, Sunny and Solita, grew beside Gloria.  Their day was peaceful until a hawk swooped down to the feeders and disturbed the tranquility in the garden.  The birds flew off.  Solita and Sunny  were frightened and shouted at the hawk.  But, Gloria reminded them “We are sunflowers, golden and radiant.”  “Our job is to be loving and peaceful wherever we stand.”   Peace returned to the garden, but later that afternoon a thunderstorm darkened the skies and threatened the strength and stability of the sunflowers.   Once again Sunny and Solita held on by their roots afraid they might tumble.  Gloria reached for their stalks and pulled them close.  Their resiliency was tested in the face of a big storm.

Why I like this book:  Janet Lucy has created an inspiring book for children with many gentle life lessons about staying centered when turbulence is swirling around you, being who you are supposed to be, living in the moment, being present with those we love and being thankful.   These are all concepts children will grasp.  There is so much depth to this story and I had to be careful not to give it away.  With spring around the corner, it is also a story about life cycles, death, and transformation.  Colleen McCarthy-Evans’s watercolor illustrations are exquisite and perfect for the story.

Resources:   Sunflowers are an international symbol of Peace.  Lucy urges children to plant seeds of peace in their gardens.  You only need to visit The Three Sunflowers website to find wonderful resources, activities and a teaching guide to share with children.   I was intrigued with how many virtues are included in this story, all great topics for discussion.

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.

The Little Yellow Bottle

Little Yellow Bottle61mN--8Sz3L__SX300_The Little Yellow Bottle

Angele Delaunois, Author

Christine Delezenne, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction,  2011

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Themes: Children, War, Disabilities, Friendship, Multicultural

Awards: IBBY International – Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities, 2010

Opening“My name is Marwa and my best friend is Ahmad.  We’ve known each other forever.  He was the goalkeeper on our village soccer team.  The best one we’ve ever had.  But Ahmad doesn’t play ball anymore.  He’s the reason I want to tell this story.”

Synopsis:  Marwa and Ahmad live in a country where there is war.  They continue to go to school, play soccer and don’t think very much about war because it seems far away.   Then one day a planes fly over their homes and drop gray bombs.  They are frightened, but after a few days they forget and begin to laugh and play again.  One day Marwa and Ahmad are kicking the soccer ball in the forest and Ahmad spots a shiny yellow bottle.  He picks it up to show Marwa and it explodes.  Both children are seriously injured.  Marwa wakes up to bandages.  Ahmad has lost two limbs.  Only time and a very special visitor brings hope that will give Ahmad the courage to live and walk again.

Why I like this bookThis picture book is for older children.  It is written in a manner that is appropriate for children.  I debated about sharing this book, but then decided that is a story that needs to be shared with older children.  It is a story about how war affects the physical and emotional lives of many innocent children around the world daily.  Angele Delaunois, the author of over 40 books, tells this heartbreaking story through Marwa.  Her words are simple and powerful.  Marwa’s goal is to “honor the courage of Ahmad and all the children in the world like him.” “I hope you won’t forget them.”  Christine Delezenne uses a blend of textures, drawings and collage to capture the action and emotion of the story.  I recommend the book for both school and public libraries.

There is a forward in the beginning of this book from Handicap International, which was a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its fight against anti-personnel mines.  “In some parts of the world children can be carefree and happy-go-lucky.  In other parts of the world, mutilation and death are close by, hidden underground or in toys or in little yellow bottles.  Every day, Handicap International sees the consequences for children and their families.”  Handicap International works in more than 60 countries helping those who have been injured by war.  They “fight for a more just and welcoming world without landmines.”

.

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

The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob

BlueOceanBob9780982961346_p0_v1_s260x420The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob:  A Journey Begins

Brooks Olbrys, Author

Kevin Keele, Illustrator

Children’s Success Unlimited LLC, Fiction, Mar. 12, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 6-10, Early Chapter Book

Themes:  Ocean Journey, Finding Purpose, Facing Fear and Doubt, Setting Goals, Making Friends, Inspirational

Opening“There once was a boy who lived close to the sea and daydreamed all day about what he might be.  His island was lush and his life wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t content with the things that he had.”

Synopsis:  Bob lives on a beautiful island, but something seems to be missing in his life.  He sets out on a journey with his chatty hummingbird, Xena, to seek guidance from the friendly creatures of the ocean.  He meets Al, a playful dolphin, Doc, a sage turtle, Earl, the clam, and Wallace the walrus.  They all offer Bob wise and sound advice.  Doc helps Bob realize his passion to protect the blue ocean and sea life.   His journey to fulfill his purpose is only beginning as he has to face his doubts and fears.  He meets Mary Marine, the Island of Roses’s leading marine biologist, who gives Bob a series of tests.   She asks Bob to tag a blue whale and document its progress for 30 days.  He encounters his first problem when his boat springs a leak.  He feels hopeless.  Xena, his guardian, is always nearby to warn Bob of danger.   But with the help of his new sea friends, Bob learns to overcome his fears, sets some goals and develop a positive attitude so he can become Mary’s trusted assistant and care for the sea creatures he cherishes.

What I like about this book:  Brooks Olbrys has created an entertaining and engaging early chapter book series for children. The book is beautifully illustrated by Kevin Kelle, whose breathtaking artwork of the ocean and sea life fills every page.  Blue Ocean Bob encourages children to pursue their dreams.  It will spark their imaginations and take them on a journey.  The plot is strong and full of adventure.  The characters are endearing and believable.  Olbrys has written a charming book in lyrical rhyme, which will engage young children who aren’t able to read alone.  Older readers will enjoy the important lessons about finding one’s passion and turning it into his/her purpose.  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.   Visit Oblrys’s website to learn more about the The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob , preview the first chapter of the book for free, learn about upcoming books in the series and click on the app.

.

Father-Son Partnership:   When Brooks Olbrys began writing Blue Ocean Bob, his son, Nicolas, was four years old.  He is now eight.  I want to share a brief interview about their inspiring relationship.

Nicolas has been a great partner on my project.   When I wrote the first five or six stories and was unsure about them, Nicolas was the first one to hear them.  He would give me honest and insightful comments about the characters, action or rhyme.  And we would brainstorm about new characters or storylines.  His most helpful advice was, “Dad, that is pretty good, but it needs to be funnier.”  The messages are important, but won’t get through if they aren’t fun and engaging for kids.  We try to incorporate that humor into the illustrations too.  Nicolas reviews every illustration and I always get his approval before giving the final sign off.  Another comment I love is when he told me “Dad, you are like a really, really good amateur writer.” 

Nicolas also helped with the music that we needed for the trailer and app.  We listened to dozens of samples from the internet and our app developer.  I couldn’t decide.  I told Nicolas if he would help me, I would make him an equity partner in the app project.  That got his attention.  He listened to the four “finalists” and chose one from an internet site.  He said that it was “just too much better” and we went with it.  Later, he asked me “Dad, if I had chosen the other ones, would you have gone with those?  I told him yes, it was his decision.  The music is perfect for the trailer, app and series.  And it is great to have an in-house junior creative director.

Marathon Mouse

Marathon Mouse9781616089665_p0_v1_s260x420Marathon Mouse

Amy Dixon, Author

Sam Denlinger, Illustrator

Sky Pony Press, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes:  Pursue your dreams, New York City Marathon, Mice, Running, Determination

Opening“Every New York City mouse dreamed of living under the bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island.  They didn’t have to dodge taxicabs or escape hungry sewer cats…But there was one day each year that their life under the bridge was not so dreamy…Marathon day!”

Synopsis:  Most of the New York City mice thought Marathon Day was the worst day of the year because they had to be careful they wouldn’t get stepped on.  Everyone except Preston, who dreamed of running the big marathon.   Preston wanted to be extraordinary.  His papa told him that “mice scamper, not run.”  So he started training for the marathon in secret.  When the day arrived he got up early and lined up with all the big sneakers.  The starting gun sounded and he began to run and run and run!  As he reached the last few miles he started to stumble and his body ached.  But an unexpected surprise awaited him at the end.

Why I like this book:  Amy Dixon wrote a charming book that carries a big message for children – pursue your dreams.  The story is fun, inspiring and engaging.  Children will cheer Preston to the finish line.  Sam Denlinger’s illustrations are colorful and lively.  I love how the cover shows such confidence in Preston’s face.  My favorite illustration is Preston at the starting line looking at a sea of over-sized sneakers and hoping he doesn’t get squashed.  This is a very clever idea for a book!  I don’t believe I’ve seen a picture book about a marathon!  Kudos to the author for creating a fun read for children.   And, this is a great book for parents to use to encourage their young ones to run and exercise.  Teacher’s can check out a discussion guide here.  Visit Amy Dixon’s website for more information.

Taconi and Claude: Double Trouble

Taconi & Claude9781616331306_p0_v1_s260x420Taconi & Claude: Double Trouble

Margot E. Finke, Author

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., Fiction, Jan. 2011

Themes:  Aboriginal boy, Australian Outback, Multicultural, Coming of Age, Courage

Suitable for Ages:  Middle Grade

Opening:  “The full moon cast a cold light on Taconi’s naked body as four wizened elders pinned him on the ground close to a blazing fire.  Sweat rolled off him, and his heart raced the thump, thump, thump of the feather drums: faster and faster.”

Synopsis:  This is a 1950′s coming of age story about a young aboriginal boy living in the Australian outback.  Nearly 13, Taconi  knows he will soon face his upcoming man ceremony  and suffers night terrors.   Secrecy shrouds the ceremony and he has no one to talk with except Claude, his chatty Cockatoo.  He’s also torn about leaving his mother and tribe to live with his father, who is a cook at the Coorparoo Cattle Station.   His father says that it’s good for Taconi to learn and understand the white man’s world if he’s to serve his tribe in later years.   Taconi will train as a jackaroo (cowboy) on the cattle ranch.  The Boss and the Misses throw a big party which gives Taconi’s father the chance to become the head “Cookie,” at the ranch.   But the meal is jeopardized when dingoes (wild dogs) raid the chicken house, leaving no meat for the soup.  Taconi wants to help his father and goes on a dangerous walkabout  into the bush with Claude to find good aboriginal meat for the soup.  He kills a Bandy-Bandy snake, searches for Witchetty grubs, a Goanna (lizard) and catches Yabbies (shell-fish) for his father’s soup.  Only Taconi and his father know the secret of a good pot of soup.  Trouble still lurks before the big ranch party.   And, Taconi must have the courage to deal with the Dreamtime Spirits planning his future.         

Why I like this book:  I was wowed  by Taconi and Claude from the first chapter.  Margot Finke has written a gripping story that weaves Aussie language and vivid tales of Medicine Men and tribal customs with an adventure that boys and girls won’t be able to put down.  Finke quickly draws the reader into Taconi’s life in the outback and the challenges he faces.  Each chapter is a page turner.   The characters are fleshed out, including his awesome Cockatoo, Claude, who provides much comic relief throughout the story.  The plot is exciting, funny and packed  with action.  Readers will enjoy learning about eating live Witchetty Grubs,  catching Yabbies and being covered by green fire ants.  There is a glossary of Aussie terms at the end of the book that will introduce readers to a variety of new vocabulary and expose them to a new culture.

Clara Bowman-Jahn also reviewed Taconi and Claude last year on her blog.

Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who writes middle grade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family.  Visit Margot Finke  on her website. 

Regine’s Book

Regine's Book9781936976201_p0_v1_s260x420.jpbRegine’s Book: A Teen Girl’s Last Words

Regine Stokke, Author

Zest Books, Nonfiction, Oct. 23, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 14 and up

Themes: Leukemia, Living with a Serious Illness, Courage, Teen Memoir, Blogging, Photography

Regine Stokke was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in August 2008, a few days after her 17th birthday.  The diagnosis was a big shock for this Norwegian teen who felt like her “life had been shattered.”  Shortly after her diagnosis, she decided to blog about what it was like to live with a serious illness and how it affected her life.  She wrote about the countless painful biopsies and blood tests, chemotherapy and hospitalizations.   There were days she was very ill and ready to give up and times of hope when donors were found.  Her life was an emotional roller coaster and took its toll.  She shared her deepest feelings and fears of dying.  Regine was surrounded by her loving family, friends and community who were of tremendous support and brought some normalcy to her life.

She received her bone marrow transplant in January 2009.  Her life began to improve.  There  were times when Regine felt well enough to pursue her love of photography and painting and exhibit her work.  She attended concerts and movies, went shopping and went to restaurants with friends.  She celebrated her 18th birthday on Jun. 6, 2009 with  two parties.  She visited children with cancer in the hospital to lend her support.  In between, there was good news and bad news.  Regine never lost sight of the fact that what was most important to her was living in the moment and her relationship with family and friends.  She loved life and had no intention of giving into her illness.

In October 2009, she received some bad news that her medications weren’t working and the aggressive cancer cells were back.  She wrote, “I’ve been crying nonstop today…This wasn’t supposed to happen.  The last time I met with the doctors we discussed the future, and talked about when I could start taking classes again — and now all of a sudden, it looks like I’m going to die.  Things changed so fast, and I don’t understand anything.  This is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.  Going through something like this is just absolutely brutal.  No one deserves this… I think about my family having to go through all of this.  It’s so awful to think about.  It’s not just my life that’s being ruined.”

Meanwhile, what started out as a blog with a few followers, rapidly grew to thousands of followers daily.  Because of her articulate and soulful accounts, she touched the lives of many people in her country and worldwide.  Readers sent Regine words of love and encouragement.  Regine’s own written words became this beautiful book about her remarkable journey and a life lived.  The book is interlaced with family photos, her photography and  heartfelt comments from friends and people who followed her blog.  Her  last blog entry was December 1, which resulted in 6,700 reader comments.  Regine made a peaceful transition on Dec. 3, 2009 at home surrounded by family members.  After her death, her parents, Lasse and Julianne Stokke found a beautiful poem (undated) on her computer:

My path has only one direction

There are no signs

And there is no map

It’s impossible to go to the left or the right

It’s impossible to turn

I can only go straight ahead

But the road is crooked

It’s neither light nor dark in front of me

There’s fog

And no one knows what

Will be found on the other side

Why I like this book:  This book is as real as it gets!  Reading her words are almost sacred.  It is an honest, gut-wrenching, raw, powerful and inspirational story told in Regine’s own words.  Although Regine only wanted to be ordinary, she was extraordinary.  Throughout all that she endured, she shared her day-to-day ups and downs of living with leukemia with others through her blog.  She  continued her dreams of being a photographer and exhibited in her work at both 2009 and the 2010 Nordic Light photographic festivals in Kristiansund, Norway.  And, she became a strong advocate for cancer patients.  She urged people to register as blood and bone marrow donors.  In those short 15 months, Regine accomplished a lifetime of work.  Regine’s book sold over 30,000 hardback copies in 2010 and over 17,000 paperback copies in 2011, before it was translated from Norwegian into English.  The book is beautifully presented as a piece of art.  The book was printed on a heavier paper to display all of Regine’s photographic work, which runs throughout the book.  It is a book filled with so much love and grace.

I won this book  from the publisher, Zest Books, on Amanda’s Born Bookish blog.  It was so compelling that I wanted to share Regine’s story.

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Doreen Rappaport, author

Matt Tavares, illustrator

Disney Hyperion Books, Biography, Oct. 16, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 6 and up

Themes: Deafblind people, Sign language, Braille, Courage, Wisdom

Opening/Synopsis:  “Helen gurgled and giggled in her crib.  At six months, she crawled and  said, ‘How-d’ye,’ and ‘wah-wah’ for water.  When she was one, she ran after a ray of sunshine.  She loved the mockingbird’s song and the sweet smell of climbing roses.  But best of all was being on her father’s lap and in her mother’s arms.”   When Helen was 19 months old, an illness took away her sight and speech.  She was surrounded by silence and darkness.  Helen tried to make up signs to communicate with her parents.  But her failure to make them understand turned into outbursts.  Annie Sullivan came to work with Helen when she was seven years old.  Helen learned sign language quickly and was considered a genius.  Annie taught her Braille so she could read books.  She learned to write with a pencil, read lips, speak, and to experience the world with enthusiasm.  Helen graduated from college with honors.  Helen’s journey out of darkness led to freedom and she taught people how very large her world was.

Why I like this book:  The title says it all “Helen’s Big World,”which is rich, full of life and not limited in any way.  This is an excellent introduction for young readers to learn about this most remarkable woman.  Doreen Rappaport beautifully captures the essence of this very inspirational child and woman, Helen Keller.  It is written in prose with quotes from Helen woven into the story on every page.  The book not only chronicles the story of Helen’s challenging and courageous life, but shows children how one can move beyond physical limitations, find their own gifts and change the world for the better.  The book is large and Matt Tavares’ illustrations are bold, colorful, emotional and lively.  The illustrator emphasizes what Helen can do.  This book is a feast for the soul.  Adults will also enjoy reading this treasure.  I love that the book title is also printed in braille on the front cover.

Favorite Quotes:  “We do not think with eyes and ears, and our capacity for thought is not measured by five senses.”

“The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people toward them.”

“I have the advantage of a mind trained to think, and that is the difference between myself and most people, not my blindness and their sight.”

Resources:  The book alone is a great resource.  There are back pages of resources and materials, as well as a page of the manual alphabet chart Annie Sullivan used with Helen.   The American Foundation for the Blind has great resources or kids and teachers, especially if you scroll down and click on the Braille Bug link.  Check out author Doreen Rappaport’s website.  This is an excellent book for the classroom.

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.