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.

Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral

WordsWound9781575424514_p0_v2_s260x420Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral

Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D, and Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., Authors

Free Spirit Publishing, Nonfiction, Dec. 3, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 13-17

Themes: Cyberbullying, Bullying, Computer crimes, Internet and teenagers, Prevention, Kindness

Publisher Synopsis: Cyberbullying among teens happens every day. Vicious messages and damaging photos exchanged through texts, email, and social media can lead to humiliation, broken friendships, punishment at school, and–as recent headlines prove–legal prosecution and even suicide. Faced with this pandemic problem, concerned parents, educators, and young people across the country are looking for information and advice.  Words Wound  is written especially for tweens and teens on the importance of standing up for themselves and others online.

Why I like this book: Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., and Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., are cyberbullying experts who have written a practical and valuable handbook for teens. Both authors know from personal experience what it feels like to be bullied at school. They have researched and talked with thousands of teens at schools, libraries and youth centers about their experiences with bullying. They’ve spoken with parents who have lost children to suicide. Words Wound is very easy to use. It is divided into three parts all supported with real-life stories and strategies for preventing, reducing and combatting cyberbulling at school. Teens are taught ways to be kind, respectful and stand up for friends. And, they are encouraged to be advocates for change in their schools and communities. What I like about this user-friendly guide is you can choose the chapters that interest you, or you can read it from beginning to end. It is a “must-have companion” for any kid with social media access. This book is a valuable resource for parents, educators and administrators. The authors wrote the book because they“know what a school without bullying looks like.” They have visited many schools across the country that are bully free because of students and educators working together.

Resources: The authors run the Cyberbullying Research Center and have designed a website, Words Wound, specifically for teens. It is a place where teens can go to keep up with the conversation, ask questions, express worries, share thoughts, ideas, and strategies about what has worked for them personally and in their schools. The authors want to hear from you. They want teens and young adults to join the national discussion to make schools a safe place.

Each Kindness

Each Kindness9780399246524_p0_v2_s260x420Each Kindness

Jacqueline Woodson, Author

E. B. Lewis, Illustrator

Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4 -8

Themes: Acceptance, Kindness, Friendship

OpeningOne morning, as we settled into our seats, the classroom door opened and the principal came in.  She had a girl with her, and she said to us, “This is Maya.”  Maya looked down at the floor.  I think I heard her whisper Hello.

Synopsis:  When Chloe first meets Maya, she notices her clothes are old and tattered and the strap on one of her shoes is broken.   The teacher assigns Maya to sit next to Chloe.  Maya manages to smile and say hello, but Chloe turns and looks out the window.  Chloe and her friends play and eat lunch together, but ignore Maya’s attempts to join them.  Whenever Mayas asks to play with the other girls, they say no.  Then one day Maya’s seat is empty.  After their teacher talks about kindness and its ripple effect, Chloe realizes that she and her friends have been wrong in their treatment of Maya.  Is it to late?

Why I like this book:  I am a Jacqueline Woodson fan.  She takes on relevant subjects for children, like kindness. Her text is lyrical.  Each Kindness is a story that will stay with a child.  I am pleased there is no tidy ending in this story.  Maya is gone.  Chloe is left to think about her actions and how she lost an opportunity to make things right with Maya.  The soft watercolor illustrations by E.B. Lewis really set the tone for the book and convey a lot of emotion.  The last illustration is priceless and beautifully expresses Chloe’s sadness and feeling of loss.  A beautiful collaboration between Woodson and Lewis.  I also reviewed another book they collaborated on The Other Side.

Resources:  This is a great discussion book for the classroom.  It focuses on the ripple effect of our actions towards others.   Visit Jacqueline Woodson at her website and learn more.

Awards:  Coretta Scott King Honor Book, 2013 Jane Addams Peace Award, 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award, Best Book of 2012 – School Library Journal

Stand Up!

Stand Up!187008865Stand Up!

Lisa Roth, M.D. & Karen Siris, Ed.D, authors

Marsha Levitin, illustrations

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Fiction,  August 2012

Suitable for: 6 and up

Themes:  Bullying, Standing Up, Friendship, Relational Aggression

Opening/Synopsis: “When I wake up in the morning, I like to think about what fun I am going to have that day.  Today I am happy because one of my friend is coming over after school to play.”  The narrator in this book is lucky to have friends who like and support him at school.  He realizes that this isn’t true for all the kids,  especially Jamie, who wants to play kick ball during recess.  She is teased and called mean names by Alex and other kids.  The narrator observes how Alex knocks Jamie’s sandwich on the floor and stamps on it and shoves her into the locker in the hallway.   He realizes that things need to change, even if he’s afraid of Alex.  He notices the kids at school who are kind, helpful and work together.  He comes up with a plan to stop bullying at the school and writes a note to his caring classmates: “Meet me on the monkey bars during recess to be part of a secret mission.  See you then.”  The Caring Majority is born and there is power in their numbers to “stand up” for themselves and their classmates.

Why I like this book:  Lisa Roth, M.D. and Karen Siris, Ed.D. have written a powerful book about kids solving their own problems in a positive way without asking adults to intervene.  This compelling story gives parents and teachers the opportunity to discuss positive ways of preventing bullying at school.  The artwork is unique and done in muted pastels.  Each page is a picture of feet, which is very symbolic in the story and to the bully’s reaction.   Very creative idea.

Resources:  The authors have provided a back page with a Teacher’s Guide and Discussion Questions.  There is information about starting a Caring Majority in your school.  Write to bullyinterventionexperts@gmail.com.  You may visit Lisa Roth, M.D. at her website, The Magical Journey.  Karen Siris, Ed.D, is a principal and professor dedicated to preventing bullying in her school district.  She is recognized for the work she has done creating a caring majority of “upstanding students in her Long Island school.

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

Because Amelia Smiled

Because Amelia Smiled178344784Because Amelia Smiled

David Ezra Stein, author and illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction,  September 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 4 -8

Theme:  A child’s smile inspires happiness, kindness and love

Opening/Synopsis“Because Amelia smiled, coming down the street…Mrs. Higgins smiled, too.  She thought of her grandson, Lionel, in Mexico and baked some cookies to send to him.”  Lionel shares the cookies with his class and teaches them an English song.  His act inspires a student in his class to film her kickboxing skills, who in turn inspires a ballet club in England.  These acts of kindness start a ripple effect that takes the reader to England, Israel,  Paris, Italy and back to New York City and Amelia.  It only takes one big smile from a little girl to ignite a chain reaction from people around the world.

Why I like this book:  Stein’s book shows children the power of how we are all connected to people we know and don’t know.  Everything thing we do has an impact on someone else.   And, with the internet and social media, our actions within our global family becomes even more important.   With Amelia her unknowing act of kindness spreads like wildfire around the world.  Too often we see the negative and it is an inspiring message to share with children and adults.  And Stein urges readers of his book to “Pass it on.”  The illustrations are very detailed and done with pencil, water-soluble crayons, and watercolor.  Stein is the author-illustrator of Interrupting Chicken, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

Resources:  This picture book alone stands as a powerful tool for parents and teachers to encourage children to do acts of kindness at home, school,  and in their neighborhoods and communities. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is a great resource for classroom activities.  Candlewick has a page about the story behind the book.

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 Carpenter’s Gift

The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas Tale About The Rockefeller Center Tree

David Rubel, author and Jim LaMarche, illustrator

Suitable for: Ages 5 and Up

Random House, September 2011, Fiction

Theme:  Giving, Kindness, Depression Era, Christmas Trees, Rockefeller Center

Opening:  “Nearly a lifetime had passed, but Henry could still remember what it felt like to wake up in the old shack, especially during wintertime.  In those days, the Great Depression gripped the country, and like many people, Henry’s parents were out of work.  They couldn’t afford coal for the stove or warm blankets for the beds, so young Henry usually woke up with a shiver.  But he didn’t complain, because it was nobody’s fault.  Instead, he visited warm places in his mind.” 

SynopsisHenry’s father comes up with an idea to make money the day before Christmas. He borrows a truck, and he and Henry head for a grove of spruce trees.  They cut them down and drive to New York City to sell them as Christmas trees.  They find the perfect spot near the Rockefeller construction site in Manhattan.  The workers help them unload the trees.  Before heading home, his father decides to give the last trees to Frank and his construction workers.   Frank takes the tallest tree and the men decorate it with cranberries, pinecones and tin cans — the first Rockefeller Christmas tree.  Henry makes a star out of newspaper.  Before he hangs it on a tree, Henry makes a special wish.  He takes a pine cone from the tree to remember that magical day.

On Christmas morning Henry awakens to tooting horns and trucks full of lumber.  Frank and his workers who have come to build a home for Henry’s family.  Frank hands Henry a hammer to help and to keep as a gift.   Henry is so grateful for his new home, that he decides to plant the pinecone he saved  from the tree near the new house.  Over the years Henry becomes a skilled carpenter.  The spruce tree grows very tall, and Henry grows older.  One day Henry repays the gift that grew from that special pinecone.

Why I like this book:   This is a book that can be celebrated throughout the year.  It is written by children’s historian David Rubel in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity.  Each year the Rockefeller Christmas tree is milled and donated to Habitat for Humanity, to build homes for families in needs.  There is a two-page history about the Rockefeller Christmas tree which was first erected in 1931 by construction workers.   The second page is devoted to Habitat for Humanity International which has built 400,000 homes around the world since 1976.  Jim LaMarche’s illustrations are stunning, gentle, emotional and luminous.

Activity:  Take your family to your community tree lighting ceremony.  Parents and teachers can turn this beautiful story into a tree-planting project at home and school during the year.  Links to resources: http://www.habitat.org/youthprograms/parent_teacher_leader/parent_teacher_leader_resources.aspx.   For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

The Family Virtues Guide

Since I’ve written a few blogs recently on pushing, mean girls and bullying, I thought I would introduce a book I used in the late 1990s when my daughter was young.  I wanted to find a way to work with her on caring, kindness and respect.  I learned about The Family Virtues Guide, by Linda Kavelin Popov, Ph.D., from teacher friends who used the program in their classrooms in Minnesota.   Dr. Popov founded the The Virtues Project,  in Canada in 1991.  Today the program has ignited a global revolution in 95 countries.  Its mission is to offer multicultural programs and materials which empower people to remember who they are and to live by their highest values.  The project was honored during the International Year of the Family by the United National Secretariat as a model global program for families of all cultures.   

 The book is about virtues, which are universally valued by all faiths and cultures in the world.   The Guide is based on sacred traditions of the world’s religions, yet it does not promote the practices or beliefs of any specific faith.  There are 52 virtues listed in the book including: caring, compassion, consideration, forgiveness,  generosity, helpfulness, kindness, love, respect, responsibility, service, trust, and truthfulness.

I was thrilled with this guide, because it allowed the entire family to take part.  Every day our daughter selected a card from the deck and read it out loud.  If an incident would arise, we might select a card for her.  Her father or I would read the chapter on the virtue from the book and we would discuss it as a family.  And, of course she had her own ideas about what a specific virtue  meant to her.   For instance, if the consideration card was selected for the day, we talked about having respect for other people and their feelings, and thinking about how our actions affect someone else.  We discussed how to practice compassion starting with paying attention to herself and to others.   It meant that she needed to be aware that day at school when someone looked lonely or sad.  Then practice what she learned by doing something nice for the other chid.   For example, befriend a new student, listen to a friend that has been teased, or let someone go first.   At the end of the day during dinner, we’d discuss if we had the opportunity to show compassion.  And, as parents we shared about how we each used the virtue at work.  Some days were more fruitful than others.    It became a game and we had fun with it.    

The book and deck of cards were retired and sat on my book shelf for a few years, until my husband’s daughter was looking for a way to help her very competitive boys get along.   So I passed along my book and cards and she began to use the program with her sons.   It too became a family project.

This also is an outstanding classroom project.  There are instructions at the end of the book about making a Virtues Tree Felt Board.  It has many applications in the classroom and can be used to acknowledge student efforts.  With bullying on the rise, it would be a helpful project to use with young children.