Jacob’s Eye Patch

Jacob's Eye Patch9781476737324_p0_v3_s260x420Jacob’s Eye Patch

Beth Kobliner Shaw & Jacob Shaw, Authors

Jules Feiffer, Illustrator

Simon & Schuster, Fiction, Sept. 24, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Wearing an eye patch, Curiosity, Feeling different

OpeningJacob and his mom were on their way to the science store to buy the most amazing thing ever — a light-up globe. “

Book Synopsis:  Jacob is in a hurry — a really big hurry — to get to the store and buy the toy he’s always wanted.  Along the way, people keep slowing him down to ask him questions about his eye patch.  It’s natural to have questions when some one looks different…but do they have to ask right now?

Why I love this book:  I wore an eye patch as a child and I love sharing this upbeat and winning book!  Beth Kobliner Shaw co-authored the book with her nine-year-old son, Jacob.  They wrote a charming, funny and encouraging story to show that every one has something that makes them unique.  This will be a welcomed and very helpful book for the many children who wear eye patches to strengthen an eye.  You have to admire Jacob’s courage and strength as he’s not going to let his eye patch get in his way of getting to the science store before it closes.  Yes, Jacob understands people are curious about why he’s wearing and eye patch, and normally he doesn’t mind answering their questions. But he’s on a mission and there are too many amusing  obstacles that get in his way.  You’ll find yourself cheering for Jacob!  Jules Feiffer’s illustrations are lively and bold.  The artwork is done in pen and watercolor and convey Jacob’s urgency and frustration to get to the store!  It is an excellent book to use with kids to teach them about differences.

A special thank you to my friend and colleague, Beth Stilborn, who writes the blog By Word of Beth.  She recommended this book to me for review.

Resources:  There are author notes at the end from Beth and Jacob.  For more fun, visit the Jacob’s Eye Patch link where you can find resources, an activity kit and tip sheet .

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.

Navigating Early

Navigating Early9780385742092_p0_v1_s260x420Navigating Early

Clare Vanderpool, Author

Delacourte Press, MG Fiction, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 10-14 (5-8 grades)

Themes:  Adventure, Journey, Appalachian Trail, Boarding Schools, Eccentricity, Loss

Synopsis:  When Jack Baker’s mother dies, his father, a WW II Navy captain, boxes up their lives in Kansas and moves them to Maine.  Jack is enrolled in the Morton Hill Academy and his father returns to his military job.  Jack struggles with making friends until he meets Early Auden, a strange but curious boy.  Jack and Early share two things in common — the loss of loved ones and distant fathers. Early is a gifted mathematical genius and is obsessed with the Pi =3.14. Early sees numbers in colors, images and creates a spellbinding story about Pi.  Early is certain that Pi is lost and the boys embark upon the journey of their life to find Pi on the Appalachian Trail.  Jack knows the constellations and navigates their trip as they encounter sea, pirates, timber rattle snakes, an old woman, lost souls, buried secrets, deep forests, caves and catacombs, and a Big Black bear.  Early’s gift of taking information and seeing what others miss keep the boys one-step ahead of danger.  The ending is unexpected but more than satisfying.

Why I like this book: This is one of the most complex books I’ve reviewed for middle graders.  Clare Vanderpool (Moon Over Manifest) has written a very emotional and compelling novel that tugs at her reader’s heartstrings and has them glued to their seats.  It is a story playing out within a story, and sometimes the lines of reality become blurred for both the boys when their hearts are involved.  This is a story about two boys searching for someone who is lost while trying to find themselves along the way.  Early would probably be diagnosed on the autism spectrum and a savant today, but the author doesn’t want to label him — so I haven’t labeled him in my tags.  Navigating Early is definitely a stand-out novel and I highly recommend it for middle graders and young adults.

Resources:  You may want to visit Clare Vanderpool at her website where readers can learn more about Navigating Early.  Teacher resources are also available.  Clare Vanderpool won the Newberry Award for her novel Moon Over Manifest.

Exclamation Mark!

Exclamation Mark9780545436793_p0_v1_s260x420Exclamation Mark!

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Author

Tom Lichtenheld, Illustrator

Scholastic Press, Fiction, March 2013

Suitable for Ages: 5 and up

Themes: Fitting In, Standing Out, Punctuation

Opening “!  He stood out from the very beginning.”

Synopsis:  An exclamation point feels that he stands out from all the periods.  Although he tries to fit in, he isn’t like the other marks.  He is depressed until one day he meets a question mark ?, who pellets him with questions until he yells Stop!  He tries bigger words: Wow!  Yippee!  Way to Go!  Cool!  Boo!  Then more exclamations rush from his mouth and he shows all his friends what he can do.  At last he’s found his purpose.

Why I like this book:  Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld have teamed up to create another very simple and creative  story that both children and adults will find an entertaining way to understand the role of a period, question mark and exclamation mark. The story idea is brilliant. I also think their humorous story will spark many meaningful discussions at home and in the classroom about fitting in, self-expression and finding one’s place in the world.  Lichtenheld’s illustrations really bring the punctuation marks to life in a delightful way for kids.  The background looks like lined homework paper. The marks all have facial expressions.  The art is simple and progresses to an explosion of colorful words at the end.  This book is a must for the classroom.  Visit Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld at their websites.

Sheila Says We’re Weird

Sheila Says We’re Weird

Ruth Ann Smalley, Author

Jennifer Emery, Illustrator

Tilbury House Publishers, Fiction, April 2011

Suitable for:  Ages 5 and up

Themes:  Energy Conservation, Green Living, Neighbors, Differences

Opening Sheila lives next door.  She’s friends with my little sister, Tina.  Sheila asks lots of questions.  She hangs over the back fence when we peg clothes on the line.  “Why Don’t you drop those in the dryer?  Did it break?  Sheila asks.”  “This is our solar dryer, Sheila.  The clothes get dry without using any electricity.”

Synopsis:  Sheila follows her neighbors through the seasons when they plant a garden and grow their own food, mow the lawn with a push mower, brew sun tea, ride bicycles to the farmer’s market to buy local food,  mulch trees and plants with leaves, and use a wood burning stove to warm the house.   She finds their lifestyle interesting, but unfamiliar and weird.   But, Sheila enjoys the home-grown meals made with fresh vegetables and playing with Tina in front of the fire.  Perhaps they are weird in a good way.

Why I like this book:  What a great way to introduce kids to energy conservation!  Ruth Ann Smalley, is a holistic educator that writes about green living.  She won a Moonbeam Bronze Award for Picture Books for her book.  Living green can be a tough subject for kids who are used to modern conveniences.  But, it is important.  And Smalley has tackled the subject in a fun way.

Resources:  Click on Tilbury House Publishers  and Reach and Teach for activities and resources in 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.

Russell’s World

Russell's World9781433809767_p0_v1_s260x420Russell’s World:  A Story for Kids About Autism

Charles A. Amenta, III, M.D.,  Author

Monika Pollak, Illustrator

Magination Press:  Non-fiction, 2011

Suitable for Ages:  5 – 10

Themes:  Autism Spectrum, Sibling Relationships, Family Support, Differences

Opening“Russell is a kid with special differences.  He has autism.  This means his behaviors can be surprising in three big ways.  He likes to be alone…He can’t talk…He doesn’t play the way other kids do.”

Synopsis:  Russell is nine years old and has a form of autism which makes it hard for him to talk and learn.  He hums, babbles, giggles and screams.  He has two younger brothers, Benjamin and Gregory, who love Russell and play with him when he’s willing.  They also know when they need to leave Russell alone.  When his brothers have friends over, Russell leaves the room.  Benjamin and Gregory are important in helping Russell copy things they do through repetition.    Russell attends school where he learns sign language, manners and playing with other children.  But, there are times that Russell puts his relationship with his brothers to the test when he breaks their toys or throws tantrums during the night.  Unlike many children with autism, Russell, loves hugs and tickles.   He is happy boy with brothers who support him.

Why I like this book:  This story is a heart warming look into a family living with a child with autism.  It is written by Russell’s father, a doctor, who uses very simple language to help children understand autism.  The story is told through a collage of photographs of Russell and his brothers accompanied by colorful illustrations that create a background.  Very clever.   Throughout the story Dr. Amenta shares a situation, and then helps kids understand Russell’s response.  He’s also quick to point out that even though Russell may be nonverbal, other kids with autism do talk, have an easier time learning and have special talents.   He explains to kids that autism affects each child differently.  I feel that parents of an autistic child would find this book  useful in helping siblings understand the differences.

Since the book was first published in 1992, Russell and his brothers are now adults.  Russell runs a small envelope stuffing business and has a deep love of music.  Benjamin is a pianist and Gregory is a mathematician/physicist and percussionist.  Music is a very strong bond for this family.

Resources:  There is extensive back matter in the book for parents.  In using the book with children, ask them what is alike and what is different in Russell’s world compared to their own.  Siblings of kids with autism may see both similarities and differences between Russell and their brother/sister.

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

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.

Making Friends Is an Art!

Making Friends9781934490303_p0_v1_s260x420Making Friends Is an Art!

Julia Cook, Author

Bridget A. Barnes, Illustrator

Boys Town Press, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes:  Friendship, Interpersonal relations in children, Life Skills

Opening/Synopsis:  “My name is Brown.  I spend a lot of time in a pencil box with a bunch of other colors.  We are all different.  Some of us are sharper than others.  Some of us are long and others are short.”   Brown is the tallest pencil in the box.  This means he is the least used pencil in the box.  And he doesn’t feel like he fits in very well with the others.  “I don’t have much to smile about.  I am Brown, tall geeky and lonely…that’s me!”  Brown envies Red, BlueOrange, Yellow, Green, and Purple who color and play together.  Blue gives hugs.  Orange likes to have fun.  Green is honest. White keeps the peace.  Pink listens.  And everyone loves Red.  When Brown talks to Blue and Green, he learns that if wants good friends, he has to be a good friend.  So he asks all the other pencils why they don’t like him and learns a lot of surprising things about himself.  It is Black who points out that “when all the colors are mixed together they make Brown.”  He has all the colors inside him.  Will he be able to use all the other colors to like himself, recognize his own strengths and be a better friend?

Why I like this book:  Julia Cook has written a humorous fun and colorful book that all kids will identify with.   What better way to teach kids about differences than through art.  There are tall kids, short kids, popular kids,  shy kids, happy kids and sad kids in every classroom.  Differences add to the dynamics of the classroom.  This book really focuses on helping children building interpersonal relationships with other children.   Bridget Barnes’ illustrations are bright, lively and expressive.   This title is the first in a new series of Julia Cook’s books focusing on relationship-building  skills for children.  It is perfect for the classroom.

Resources:  There is a backpage at the back of the book with constructive tips for parents, teachers and counselors to work with kids in building the life skills they require to be a good friend.  In the classroom, ask each child to pick the color of a pencil he/she feels they could identify with most and why.   This will make for an interesting classroom discussion.  Visit Julia Cook’s website,  to view the many books she has written.

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.

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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.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Wonder9780375869020_p0_v2_s260x420Wonder

R.J. Palacio, Author

Random House Children’s Books, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes:  Abnormalities, Differences, Friendship, Middle School, Self-esteem

Opening: “I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid.  I mean, sure, I do ordinary things.  I eat ice cream.  I ride my bike.  I play ball.  I have an XBox.  Stuff like that makes me ordinary, I guess.  And, I feel ordinary.  Inside.  But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds.  I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.” 

Synopsis:  August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a rare facial deformity.  He has undergone many surgeries in his young life. He has dealt with people staring at him and rushing away in horror his 10 young years.  His mother has homeschooled August to protect him, but he’s about to start fifth grade,  His parents have taken a bold step and have enrolled him in Beecher Prep.  Although Auggie has learned to brace himself, he’s not happy about going to middle school.   It’s hard enough to be the new kid on the block.   But facing your classmates knowing there will be rejection, ridicule and cruelty is a lot to ask of any child.  The principal asks three students to be friends with Auggie and show him the ropes.  Among the three, Jack is the only true friend who really enjoys being with Auggie.  There are a few other kids who gather around to support Auggie.  Only Julian, the popular kid and class bully, turns the rest of the class against Auggie and Jack.  But Jack and Auggie will have their day when friendship  and kindness rule.

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What I like about this book:  Palacio has written a gripping story that is both heartbreaking and funny.  The chapters are short and are told in first-person from the viewpoint of each child who interacts with Auggie — which is very raw and revealing.  The author has done an excellent job of getting into the mind of each of his characters and letting readers experience their feelings and reactions.  We also see how Auggie grows and builds inner strength and courage.   Wonder is an excellent book to use in the classroom and encourage kids to talk about differences — visible or invisible.  Wonder has been named the by the New York Times as one of the Top Ten Notable Children’s Books for 2012.

Horatio Humble Beats the Big “D”

Horatio Humble Beats the Big “D”

Margot Finke, author

Ellen Gurak, illustrator

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., 2010, Fiction

Suitable for:  Ages 5-10

Themes:  Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities, Differences

Opening/Synopsis:  “When Horatio Humble read words out loud/There were snorts and giggles from the classroom crowd./The teacher would frown and say, “‘Tut, tut!’  And Horatio’s mouth would close –tight and shut.”  Horatio is a bright student.  He gets A’s in Math and in History.   English and reading are a challenge.  He wants to read books, “But something was wonky within his poor head, so words in his books stayed a mystery instead.”   He and his parents meet with the teacher and Horatio learns he has dyslexia.  Horatio is told that he will attend a special class.  He is upset!  “Special class is for nitwits,” he whined.  “Every one of my friends will think that I’m dumb!”  After working with a teacher things begin to look brighter for Horatio.

Why I like this book:  First of all, Margot Finke beautifully wrote this book in rhyme.  The book is simple, compassionate and packed with hope.   Ellen Gurak’s bold and colorful illustrations are engaging  and show Horatio overcoming adversity.  This book should be in every school library.   It is fun and upbeat.  You can visit Margot Finke by clicking on her website.    She wrote a grade school rhyming book for dyslexic children

Resources:  There is a helpful parent-teacher guide included at the end.   Margot Finke also wrote a grade school rhyming book for dyslexic children.  If dyslexia is caught early it can be overcome according to the Mayo Clinic.  Did you know that Oprah, Bill Gates and Daniel Radcliffe had dyslexia?  To learn more about dyslexia contact the International Dyslexia Association and The Dyslexia Foundation.

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.

Temple Grandin – Autism Awareness Month

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World

Sy Montgomery, Author

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children,  Biography,  Apr. 3, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 9 and up, Middle Grade

Themes: Austism Spectrum, Differences are gifts, Revolutionizing livestock industry

Sy Montgomery’s captivating children’s biography about Temple Grandin, speaks to children, especially to those who feel different.  It is beautifully crafted and has all the ingredients for a good book with simple chapters, a lot of photographs, informative inserts, and advice for kids with autism.  We meet her mother, her lifelong school friends, and teachers.  (Depending on the child’s age, parents may want to review the graphic details about the cruelty to animals.)   This book belongs in school libraries, as it helps all children understand that abilities may be the result of differences.

For years, Temple, couldn’t speak a word.   Loud noise hurt, ordinary sensations were torture, human voices made little sense and the certain odors prevented her from concentrating.   Sometimes the only way she could communicate was by crying or throwing a tantrum.   Her father wanted to institutionalize her, but her mother refused.   It would be years before she was diagnosed with autism, as she was born in 1947, and little was known.  But her mother found special schools for Temple with teachers and psychologists who knew how to bring her out.  This was surprising, knowing she attended school in the 1950s and 1960s.

Temple saw the world visually — in pictures –much like animals do.  And it was animals that eventually saved Temple and helped her learn to calm herself as a teenager.  While visiting her aunt’s cattle farm, she would go out into the middle of a spacious pasture, lie down and wait for the thousand-pound steers, to curiously circle around her motionless body.  They would walk up and lick Temples face — she was at peace.   She was introduced to a cattle chute where calves were vaccinated.  The calves heads stick out a hole in the gate head, the operator pulls a rope to press side panel against the animal’s side.  It horrified Temple at first, but she observed this squeeze chute calmed the animal.   She decided to try it on herself with her aunt helping, and she suddenly felt calm, secure and peaceful.   She built a squeeze machine for herself when she returned to school, so she could calm herself.   The school psychologist was not happy, but her favorite science teacher supported her.  He suggested they build a better squeeze machine and conduct scientific experiments on other students to see it if helped them relax.  Success!

These early discoveries and a love for animals were the beginning of a long career studying animal-behavior in college and graduate school, that would open the door to her life work of advocating for more the humane treatment of cattle in the livestock industry.  Her breakthrough designs for cruelty-free cattle-handling facilities are used worldwide.  These designs have benefited the cattle, ranchers and slaughterhouses.  And it was her autism that gave her the special insights and skills to make that difference.

I hope parents with children see possibility in Temple Grandin.  She is a strong advocate for autism and works with many young people.   Although she has learned coping skills, she has autism like many famous inventors and scientists who changed the world.  Temple doesn’t want a brain like most other people have.  “A lot of normal people are fuzzy in their thinking,” she says.  “I like the way I think.   Autism is part of who I am.”   Temple uses her experience as an example of the unique contributions that autistic people can make.  You see beauty in her autism.

Today, she is a scientist, professor, lecturer, and author of many books.  She now focuses on the humane treatment facilities for pigs, sheep, goats and chickens.  In 2010, HBO made a TV movie of her life, starring Claire Danes.  It won an Emmy.