Hansel and Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

Hansel & Gretel9781615992508_p0_v2_s260x420Hansel 0& Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

Jewel Kats, Author

Claudia Marie Lenart, Illustrator

Loving Healing Press, Fiction, Oct. 10, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Down syndrome, Fairy tale, Special needs

Opening: “One fateful night, a storm ripped through Cottage Country…The rain finally stopped pouring days and days later. Cottage Country was deserted. The only people left were the fisherman and his family.”

Synopsis: A storm sweeps through a village and a fisherman and his two children, Hansel and Gretel, are the only survivors. Their food runs out and Hansel and Gretel are sent to search for food in the forest. Their mother protests that Hansel is sick and too young for such an adventure. But, Hansel’s father disagrees and says he has Down syndrome and that they can’t always protect him forever.  Hansel takes the lead and bravely runs into the forest and stumbles upon the witch’s candy house.  Will Hansel be able to outwit and negotiate with the witch?

Why I like about this book:

  • Jewel Kats retells this magical story with the main character, Hansel, who has Down syndrome — a different ability.
  • It is the perfect read for World Down Syndrome Day, March 21.
  • This book will help readers look beyond disabilities and see Hansel as a clever, capable, determined and successful hero, who faces the witch with wit and kindness.
  • The story breaks stereotypes and touches on prejudices about what a child with a disability can achieve. And there is an unexpected twist with the witch, who also shouldn’t be judged by her appearance.
  • Claudia Lenart’s illustrations are breathtaking, whimsical, and contribute to the book’s appeal. Lenart is a fiber artist who pokes wool and other natural fibers, like alpaca, with a barbed needle to sculpt her soft characters and scenes.  This is the perfect medium for a fairy tale.

Resources: Check out the website for World Down Syndrome Day, where you can find information, personal stories, worldwide events and how to participate. And visit Jewel Kats and Claudia Marie Lenart at their websites.

Malala – Iqbal, by Jeanette Winter

malala-a-brave-girl-from-pakistan-iqbal-a-brave-9781481422949_lgMalala: A Brave Girl From Pakistan

Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan

Jeanette Winter, Author and illustrator

Beech Lane Books, Biography, Nov. 4, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Children speaking out about injustice, Bravery, Malala, Iqbal, Pakistan, Taliban

Openings: Two children from Pakistan spoke out against injustice in their world. Their bravery in the face of great danger is an inspiration to all who know their stories.

“Who is Malala?” the Taliban demands, looking into the school van. 

“Twelve dollars!  Until the twelve-dollar loan to his parents is repaid, four-year-old Iqbal must work in the carpet factory. Twelve dollars for a boy’s freedom.”

Beech Lane Books Synopsis:  Meet two heroes of Pakistan who stood up for the rights to freedom and education in these inspirational nonfiction tales from acclaimed author-illustrator Jeanette Winter. Two stories of bravery in one beautiful book—including the story of Malala Yousafzai, a winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize!

One country: Pakistan. Two children: Iqbal Masih and Malala Yousafzai. Each was unafraid to speak out. He, against inhumane child slavery in the carpet trade. She, for the right of girls to attend school. Both were shot by those who disagreed with them—he in 1995, she in 2012. Iqbal was killed instantly; Malala miraculously survived and continues to speak out around the world.

Why I like this book:

  • It is an illustrated picture book biography.
  • Great pairing of two very brave children in one book.  Read Malala’s Yousafzai’s story first and then flip the book over and read Iqbal Masih’s  story.
  • The text is very simple and childlike; the words powerful. This is an inspiring book that will introduce children to the courageous boy and girl who share a common interest–they want to attend school at a high cost to their lives.
  • The colorful digital illustrations capture the story in a manner that won’t frighten children. Mid-way through the book where the stories meet, an illustration depicts Malala and Iqbal flying kites on a double-page spread. Malala is holding onto to the string of her kite, while Iqbal (a shadow of a boy) lets go of his string. This page is symbolic of their intertwined lives and a kind of passing of the torch to Malala who refuses to be silenced by bullets and becomes the voice for human rights.
  • This is an excellent introductory book to use in the classroom.

Resources: There is an author’s note at the beginning of each story that highlights each child with more detail. This belongs in every school library. It is a great way to discuss the plight of children living in other countries. How are their lives similar and different? Encourage students to write a letter to Malala.

Jeanette Winter is the acclaimed author/illustrator of many highly regarded picture books, including The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq; Mama: A True Story in Which a Baby Hippo Loses His Mama During a Tsunami, but Finds a New Home and a New Mama; Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa; Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan; Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia; Henri’s Scissors, and Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes. 

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.

Cubbie Blue and His Dog Dot

Cubbie Blue2940015722376_p0_v1_s260x420Cubbie Blue and His Dog Dot, Book 1

Randa Handler, Author and Illustrator

Premier Digital Publishing, Dec. 12, 2012

Available eBook on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple, Google and Sony

Suitable for Ages:  5-8 years

Themes: Friendship, Diversity, Magic, Right and Wrong, Problem-Solving, Equality

Opening: “In the mists of Cylon, the oldest Antarctic iceberg, was the enchanted land of Baltar, with diamond-faceted ice stalactites and stalagmites that twinkled in any light.  The sky-blue-skinned Baltarians were always happy, doing cartwheels as they walked and giggling when they talked.  They were only a few inches tall but big in knowledge.”

SynopsisCubbie Blue and His Dog Dot is a story about Cobalt, a 150-year-old child, who stands three inches tall, is blue and has a long blue beard.  “Cubbie” has a family and a miniscule dog, Dot, who has multiple tails.  They live in a peaceful nation of Baltar, which is on an iceberg in Antarctica.  The Baltarians communicate telepathically.  There is another nation, Aryon, which wants to capture Baltar.  Therefore, Baltar has a protective energy field around it and all Baltarians are warned not to leave.   While playing in his father’s transport vehicle,  Cubbie” pushes too many buttons and finds himself far away from Baltar and in a land of people who are friendly, but are giants.  Cubbie finds an unlikely friendship with three multi-racial boys, Brian, Chris and Derek, who find their new friend quite unique.  Cubbie can read minds, disappear, and create magical transport bubbles to explore his new environment (cities, mountains and rivers) with his friends.  They have a lot to learn about each other, including right and wrong, tolerance, equality and problem-solving.

Why I like this book:  Author Randa Handler has written a magical and quirky story that will not only entertain children, but will teach them about diversity, problem solving, multicultural differences, and social justice issues.  In fact today marks the UN World Day of Social Justice.  To celebrate, Randa Handler and Premier Digital Publishing are giving away the first book in her new eBook series that promotes diversity, tolerance and equality.   Says Handler, “If children are taught early on that being different is cool, the world will be a better place to live in.”   This is an excellent book to encourage kids to use their imaginations.  Her illustrations are bold, funny and colorful.  Cubbie Blue can be downloaded for free by “liking” Premier Digital Publishing’s Facebook page from Feb. 20-28, 2013.   You may visit Randa Handler at her website and view her other books in the Cubbie Series and another book If I Were King.  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of her first three books will go to the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition.

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

I Have a Dream

Martin Luther King9780375858871_p0_v1_s260x420I Have A Dream

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kadir Nelson, illustrator

Schwartz & Wade Books, Oct. 2012

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes:  Dr. Martin Luther King, African-Americans, Civil Rights, Freedom, Diversity

Opening/Synopsis:  “I say to you today, my friends, that even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.  I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Book CoverFrom Dr. Bernice A. King:  “My father’s dream continues to live on from generation to generation, and this beautiful and powerful illustrated edition of his world-changing “I Have a Dream” speech brings his inspiring message of freedom, equality, and peace to the youngest among us — those who will one day carry his dream forward for everyone.”

Why I like this book:  Artist Kadir Nelson has taken one of the most powerful and inspirational speeches in history, and created a  beautifully illustrated book set to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic speech delivered on Aug. 28, 1963.   Nelson’s oil paintings are masterpieces  and a feast for the eyes and soul.  I was mesmerized by the strength and power in each painting.  Now a new generation of children will have the opportunity to learn about this great civil rights leader.

Resources:  There is a CD that accompanies this book.  The entire speech is printed at the end of the book.  With the inauguration of President Barak Obama, our first African-American President,  falling on Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Day, it is right to combine the two.  In honor of both, tomorrow, January 19, has been named a National Day of Service, and Americans are being urged to get involved in a local community service project.   Just check on the website for information

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.

GreenBean: True Blue Family

GreenBean180801648GreenBean:  True Blue Family

Elizabeth Blake, author and illustrator

Nisse Press, LLC, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and up

Themes:  Adoption, Different Families,  Identity, Visual Impairment

Opening/Synopsis:   “Oh No! Green Bean thought.  Maybe I don’t belong in this family.  I am green.  They are blue.”  GreenBean one days realizes that she doesn’t look like the other members of her family.    She has long ears and they have short ears.  She frets about all the differences and compares herself to her friend Anna who is the same color as her family.   It isn’t until GreenBean’s blind brother is surprised by her statement and offers her a new perspective of family.  GreenBean begins to see the diversity among her friends.  And, she learns that being loved and accepted by her blue family is what counts.

What I like about this book:  This is the first book written and illustrated by Elizabeth Blake.   The language is simply written as are her bold and colorful illustrations.   Both my children are adopted and struggled with identity issues and feeling different.  I would have welcomed her book.  In today’s world, there are many different kinds of families — divorced, single-parent, foster, mixed multicultural and ethnic, and gay families.  Blake’s excellent book  helps children understand diversity is part of who we are globally.   Otherwise we’d be pretty boring.   Blake’s credits her blind brother  “who taught her that sight is not necessary for insight.”   He has been inspiration to her in learning about uniqueness and differences.  Visit Elizabeth Blake at her website.

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

A Summer Secret – Amish Series

A Summer Secret141813089A Summer Secret: The Mysteries of Middlefield Series

Kathleen Fuller, author

Tommy Nelson Publishers, Fiction 2010

Suitable for:  Ages 12 and up

Themes:  Amish Lifestyle,  Sibling Rivalry, Mystery, Adventure, Friendship

Opening/Synopsis:  Mary Beth Mullet is a 13-year-old Amish girl living with her parents and three mischievous and noisy brothers.  She seeks a quiet place of her own where she can day-dream, write and sketch in her journal.  Many readers will identify with her situation.   She finds refuge in an old abandoned barn her parents have forbidden her to visit.   One day she finds a button that she knows must belong to a Yankee (non-Amish) person.  It is unsettling for her because she realizes her secret place has been violated.  Her twin brother, Johnny, discovers her secret place when he follows Mary Beth one day to the barn.  There a mystery begins to unfold when the twins discover a young runaway boy hiding in the barn.  Who is he?  Why is he hiding?  They have some decisions to make that may involve an element of risk and danger.  What will they do?

Why I like this book:  Kathleen Fuller has written a richly detailed and beautiful coming of age book.  Although it is designated for young adults, I believe middle graders would enjoy this clean read, as well as adults.  And, I would also recommend the book for boys because it is full of adventure, mystery and has many twists and turns.  The plot is strong and the characters are well- developed.  Fuller has thoroughly researched and accurately portrayed the humble Amish lifestyle.   Growing up in Ohio, she writes about Middlefield, the fourth largest Amish community in the world.    She weaves their history into the book, using some of the Old Order language.  There is a glossary in the book.    I loved the book and couldn’t put it down.  I’m also from Ohio, and am drawn to stories about the Amish communities.  I look forward to reading the remaining  two books in the series:  The Secrets Beneath and Hide and Secret.   Check out Kathleen Fuller’s website.

The Other Side – Black History Month

The Other Side

Jacqueline Woodson, Author

E.B. Lewis, Illustrations, Fiction, 2001

Suitable for:  Ages 5 and Up

Themes:  Diversity, Friendship, Racial Equality, Segregation

Opening/Synopsis That summer the fence that stretched through our town seemed bigger.  We live in a yellow house on one side of it.  White people live on the other.  And Mama said, “Don’t climb over that fence when you play.”  She said it wasn’t safe.  Two girls, one white (Annie) and one black (Clover)  live in houses on the opposite sides of the fence.  Every morning, Annie climbs up on the fence and sits and watches Clover and her friends jumping rope.  They don’t invite Annie to play.  She sits on the fence every day rain or shine.  She dances in rain puddles by herself.  One day Clover goes over to the fence and climbs up to sit with Annie.   They become good friends and spend the entire summer sitting on the fence that the adults built to separate their two communities.

What I like about this book:  This is an excellent book to discuss the history of racism and diversity with children.  Clover narrates this realistic and lyrical book by Jacqueline Woodson.  E.B. Lewis’s beautiful water-color illustrations give the book a warm and friendly feeling.   This book clearly shows how children don’t see color.   They are puzzled by the fence between the black and white neighborhoods in their small town.  They don’t disobey the rules, but find a clever way around them by sitting together on top of the fence.  They aren’t going to let a fence get in the way of  their friendship.  Woodson does an outstanding job of showing that friendship can overcome any racial barrier.  This is the 11th anniversary of this classic book.  It continues to be a great book  for classroom discussions.

Activities:  There are two resource links for  The Other Side.  The second is an activity section that can be used with Woodson’s book.

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.