Peace, Bugs, and Understanding

Peace, Bugs9781937006631_p0_v3_s260x420Peace, Bugs, and Understanding: An Adventure in Sibling Harmony

Gail Silver, Author

Youme Nguyen Ly, Illustrator

Parallax Press, Fiction, Dec. 9, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Anger, Sibling Rivalry, Mindfulness

Opening: Lily was having a picnic with her father and her little sister, Ruby, but it wasn’t much fun. Ruby was lying on the checkerboard.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Lily and her sister are having a picnic when Ruby spoils their game of checkers. Lily lashes out but soon gets absorbed in a wonderful book, the story of her great-grandfather Lahn’s encounter with a strong-looking frog-like creature called Anger. The precious old journal teaches Lily about Metta, a technique that has helped people transform anger into loving kindness for thousands of years.

Why I like this book:

  • Gail Silver, author of Ahn’s Anger, has written a positive and resourceful book for children and adults about transforming negative feelings. This book focuses on anger, but I believe it can be used with feelings of jealousy, frustration, anxiety, disappointment or any negative feeling that causes disharmony. It’s a book children and parents will want to read together.
  • Peace, Bugs and Understanding, introduces its readers to a very simple calming technique called “Metta,” which means loving kindness. Silver suggests “that when you practice Metta,  sit quietly and become aware of your own breath.” Once you calm yourself, you focus on the person you are angry with and wish for them “to be happy, be strong, be safe and live with peace.” 
  • This is a wonderful tool for children and adults to cultivate forgiveness towards others and even themselves. How can you be angry at someone when you are sending them kind, happy and loving thoughts?
  • The book is a story within a story. Therefore, Youme Nguyen Ly’s illustrations are colorful and warm watercolors in Lily’s world, but are gray and white pen and ink for Lahn’s journal.  The illustrations project a sense of calm that fits beautifully with the theme. This is a lovely collaboration between author and illustrator.

Resources: My favorite part of the book is a “Reader’s Guide” at the end that helps parents teach “Metta” to their children. There is also a page of discussion questions to use with children. This is also a book to pair with Ahn’s Anger, which I reviewed in 2013. You can visit Gail Silver and Youme Nguyen Ly at their websites.

Gail Silver is the founder of Yoga Child, a program that develops curriculum for school-based yoga and mindfulness programs. She is the author of Anh’s Anger and its sequel Steps and Stones.

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.

Little Bird Lost

Little Bird Lost9781492762829_p0_v1_s260x420Little Bird Lost

Kate Larkinson, Author

Steve Larkinson, Photographer

CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Nature, Birds, Sibling Rivalry

Opening: “1..2..3 little birds but there should be more. Three baby birds in the nest but there should be four.”

Synopsis (Book Description) : One of the baby birds seems to be missing. His greedy siblings have pushed him out of view! A tale of sibling rivalry and their parents love all their offspring.

Why I like this book: I loved Kate Larkinson’s simplicity and rhyming text for young children. This is a charming story about nature, a mother bird feeding her young ones and sibling rivalry. According to the book, Steve Larkinson “saw the nest in the eaves of a bakery in south-west France,” and decided to capture the life of a family of swallows through his beautiful photography. This is the perfect spring read for beginning readers. They  will feel triumphant over mastering this beautiful book.  Make sure you check out Kate and Steve Larkinson’s website.

Resources: Walk around your house and yard and look for nests of birds.  You can watch the birds busily building nests right now. Bird watch and write down the variety of bird you see in your yard this spring.

There is a Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of this book at  that ends March 24.

There is also a LibraryThing Giveaway for the ebook edition at which expires on March 28.

Erik from This Kid Reviews Books, also reviewed Little Bird Lost last fall.  He has included some excellent activities for children that I won’t repeat.

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.

In Jesse’s Shoes – Perfect Picture Book

In Jesse’s Shoes: Appreciating Kids With Special Needs

Beverly Lewis, Author

Laura Nikiel, Illustrator

Bethany House Publishers, Fiction, 2007

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and up

Themes:  Appreciating a sibling with special needs,  embarrassment,  teasing, acceptance, friendship.

Opening/SynopsisEvery day I walk my brother to his bus at the corner.  It’s not far, but it takes a long time because Jesse gets distracted by things like rain puddles, honeysuckle blossoms, and even ladybugs — which bugs me a lot.”  Allie walks with her older brother, Jesse, to the school bus stop every morning and endures his distractions, and the teasing and giggling of the other kids waiting for the bus.  She wonders to herself “Why didn’t I get a regular brother?”  She loves Jesse, but is frustrated and tired of being embarrassed by him.  Allie feels terrible about her feelings.  One  day Jesse meets Allie and tells her to put on his large shoes and instructs her to “do what Jesse does.”  Allie follows Jessie  and discovers the wonders of his world that she has not noticed.  That day changes Alli forever.

Why I like this book:  Beverly Lewis has written a story with a powerful message about acceptance for children.  I like that she told the story from Allie’s viewpoint.  Laura Nikiel’s illustrations are bright, colorful and filled with expression.  There are many children who have a sibling with a special need.  Like Allie, siblings deal with  emotions ranging from love to embarrassment.  It’s important that they have a way to express how they feel to someone who will listen.  Beverly Lewis comes up with a very creative way of helping Allie see life as Jesse does.   This is a good book for home or at school.  Activity:  Have students discuss what it means to “walk in someone else’s shoes” before you read the book.  Encourage them think of examples of people to share.  After you read the book,  have each child write a letter to Jesse to tell him what they learned from his story.

For those who want more information about siblings and special needs families, please go to Sibshops. They have developed a flexible curriculum that provides much-needed peer support and a safe place for kids to talk about their feelings and experiences.  The workshops are always a good balance of fun, friendship and support and help build a network of friendship and resources.  The Sibshop curriculum is used throughout the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Guatemala, Turkey, and Argentina.  Thank you Cathy Mealey for the information about this site.

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.

Big Red Lollipop

I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 40th annual conference in August.  I returned with some favorite picture and middle grade books, and YA fiction that I will share in coming months.

Big Red Lollipop, is written by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.   Khan won a Golden Kite Award for the text of her picture book at the SCBWI  conference in August.  A gifted storyteller, Rukhsana Khan gave one of the most inspiring and humorous acceptance speeches by telling her real-life story of siblings rivalry and cultural differences, and how she brought this winning story to life.   Blackall’s illustrations beautifully compliment and capture the many emotions in the story.

Rubina races home after school, with her first birthday party invitation.    Her mother asks Rubina, “What is a birthday party?”  Rubina explains that “it’s when they celebrate the day they are born.”   There is cake and ice cream, games and toys.  In the background her little sister Sana, screams that she wants to go.  Not understanding the custom, her mother tells Rubina she can go if she takes her little sister.  Rubina knows the other girls will make fun at her and never invite her again.   Taking Sana to the party isn’t too bad and they leave with a gift bag of small toys, chocolates and a Big Red Lollipop.  Sana eats her lollipop on the way home, but Rubina carefully saves lollipop on top of the refrigerator for the next morning.   Guess who spots the lollipop the next morning?  But, the worst thing that happens is that Rubina doesn’t get any invitations to birthday parties for a long time.  Then one day Sana runs home from school with an invitation to a birthday party and is told that she must take her little sister Maryam.  This is a charming book about sibling rivalry, friendship and compassion that take some unexpected twists and turns.  I have added this book to my book shelf.

Kahn has authored many multi-cultural picture books including Silly Chicken, Ruler of the Courtyard and The Roses in My Carpet.  Her newest book, Wanting Mor is a middle grade book I plan to review soon.

Rules — Autism Awareness Month

 In wrapping up Worldwide Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to end my children’s book reviews with Rules, by Cynthia Lord.   This is a chapter book for children in grades 4-7, published by Scholastic Press.  The author won the Newberry Honor and the Schneider Family Book Awards in 2009.   Lord, is the mother of two children, one of whom has autism.  She is also a former teacher and behavioral specialist.

The book cover says it all, “No toys in the fish tank!”   It is one of many rules, that 12-year-old, Catherine has made up to help her autistic brother, David, understand his  world.  There are others too:  Flush!   A boy can’t  take off his pants in public.  This is Catherine’s room.  David must knock!  It’s okay to hug Mom, but not the clerk at the video store.  Don’t chew your food with your mouth open.

Rules, is a very convincing story about the challenges for siblings living with a brother/sister with autism.  For Catherine, it’s about wanting to live a normal life, which is not possible when life revolves around David.  Catherine is an endearing character, struggling with her own identity and wanting to have friends.  She has all the normal feelings of resentment, anger, embarrassment, frustration and jealousy that siblings share.   A diagnosis of autism is very hard on siblings.

Yet for  Catherine, it becomes a fine balancing act.   She loves and fiercely protects her brother, but she also has wants and dreams for herself.    A lot for a 12-year-old girl to handle, as she is attempting to come into her own.  The  rules begin to blur for Catherine as she becomes involved in other friendships.  You begin to wonder who she has really written the rules for — David or herself.   In the end, what is important to Catherine is that everyone is different in their own way.  And, that is okay.

This book is an inspirational read for siblings and their parents, and an exceptional  discussion book for  teachers and students.