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.

Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red

Tilt Your Head Rosie9781927583593_p0_v1_s260x420Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red

Rosemary McCarney, Author

Yvonne Cathcart, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction, Apr. 1, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-9

Themes: Bullying, Standing up for what is right, Differences, Friendship, Self-confidence, Diversity, Tolerance

Opening: Every night at bedtime, Rosie took off her special red cape and hung in on the bedpost. And every morning, she tied it over her shoulders before leaping out of bed to start the day.

Synopsis: Rosie arrives at school wearing her red cape and is stunned to see kids on the playground teasing the new girl Fadimata, who is Muslim and wears a hijab. Not all her classmates are being mean, but they seem afraid to stop the bullying. Before Rosie can say anything, the bell rings. She comes up with a plan to help her friend feel welcome. Rosie asks Fadimata if she will make her cape into a headscarf and wears it all day amidst the whisper of the other students. When Rosie arrives at school the next day, she realizes her solution proves that anything is possible and that differences can be celebrated.

Why I like this book:

Rosie is an optimistic, self-confident and strong role model for girls. She’s not afraid to stand up for what is right. If she sees something wrong, she tilts her head, looks at the situation from every angle before she takes action. She’s a superhero for girls. The character Rosie, is based on author Rosemary McCarney, who as a child had and “amazing sense of social justice.” Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red, is the first of a three picture books starring Rosie the Red. Yvonne Cathcart’s illustrations are colorful and vibrant. They beautifully capture Rosie’s positive and expressive character. This is an inspiring book for home and school.

Resources: This is a great character book to use in the classroom. It addresses diversity, bullying, tolerance and the courage to do what is right. Do some role-playing and ask children to walk in Fadimata’s shoes? How would they feel if they looked different and were teased? Have they been teased and why? Have they ever been a bystander and afraid to help someone being teased? How did that make them feel? Is it hard to stand up to their friends? Did they like how Rosie stood up for Fadimata?

Rosemary McCarney is President and CEO of the Toronto-based Plan Canada, where she spearheads the Because I am a Girl Movement. She is the author of Every Day is Malala Day and Because I am a Girl: I Can Change the World.

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.

All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month

All My Stripes9781433819179_p0_v1_s260x420All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism

Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer, Authors

Jennifer Zivoin, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 22, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Autism Spectrum, Animals, Differences

Opening: Zane ran home as fast as he could.  “Nobody gets me, Mama!” Mama hugged Zane. He began to tell her about his bad day.

Synopsis: Zane the Zebra feels different from the rest of his classmates. He worries that all they notice about him is his red “autism stripe” located smack in the middle of his forehead.  During art class when the other zebras are working on their hoof-painting projects, Zane doesn’t want to get paint on his hooves and uses a paintbrush instead. The other zebras tease him.  During math class, the fire alarm blares. The other zebras form a line and leave while Zane hides under his desk screaming. After lunch he tries to join in the conversation with the other zebras and they ignore him. He worries that all the other zebras see is his autism stripe.

What I like about this book:

  • All My Stripes is a heartwarming book written especially for children with autism.  They will easily see themselves in this lovable zebra hero. As they follow Zane at school they will identify with his sensitivity to touch and sound, and his difficulty interacting with the other zebras.  Zane wants so much to fit in and just can’t figure out how to start a conversation. When the kids walk away, Zane starts talking louder.  I’m sure this will resonate with autistic children.
  •  Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer shine a light on the autism spectrum, but go a step further and show how endearing, unique and beautiful the children are in this inspiring story about embracing differences. Although the book is meant for kids with autism, its message really could translate to all children. It is also very entertaining.
  • I applaud the author’s use of stripes as a wonderful metaphor in the story. Mama zebra helps Zane feel proud of all of his stripes. She holds him up to a mirror and tells him the meaning of his stripes and how each pattern reveals something that is uniquely Zane: his caring stripe, his curiosity stripe, his pilot stripe, his honesty stripe and his autism stripe. Children will grasp this concept.
  • Jennifer Zivoin’s illustrations are bold, colorful and stunning.  They capture Zane’s emotions and exhilaration. Children will carefully pour over each adorable detail. Great collaboration between the authors and illustrator.

Resources/Activities:   The book has a wealth of information at the end. There is a reading guide that follows the book and tackles the problems that Zane faces in school. There is also a note to for parents and caregivers with tips on finding support. Encourage kids to draw a picture of a zebra and make their own unique stripe patterns.  Visit Hello Kids to learn how to draw a zebra.

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.

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.