A Time to Dance and a Book Giveaway

I reviewed A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman, when it was first released in 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books.  It is a beautiful story written in free verse.  The author has sent me an autographed paperback copy (2015) to give away to one lucky reader. All you need to do is leave a comment below indicate your interest, follow my website, and be a resident of the US or Canada. I will announce the winner on September 13.  I have included part of my earlier review of this remarkable gem. The hardback copy is a permanent resident on my bookshelf.

Suitable for ages: 12 and up

Awards: ALA Notable Book, Booklist Editor’s Choice, Kirkus, other national and international awards

Themes: Dance, India, Amputee, Disabilities, Abilities, Loss, Courage, Recovery

Book Jacket SynopsisVeda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance–so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown up used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling.

But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.

Why I like this book: This inspirational and courageous novel is lyrical with each word carefully chosen.  Verse is the perfect medium. Padma Venkatraman weaves together a story about loss and resilience of a girl determined to dance once again her beloved Indian Bharatanatyam. This is not a story about disability, but one of ability. It is about finding the deeper spiritual meaning of the dance over the applause. “For my invisible audience of the One I begin to dance./ Colors blur into whiteness and a lilting tune that is and is not of the world resonates within and without me./ My body feels whole./In the beat of my heart I hear again the eternal rhythm of Shiva’s feet.”

Reading Venkatraman’s novel is an experience of India in all its beauty, cultural traditions, senses and sounds. If you listen closely you can hear the faint echo of a dancing rhythm. Thaiya thai. Thaiya thai.  I highly recommend this beautiful novel for tweens and teens who have faced challenges in their lives.  This book is a treasure!

Padma Venkatraman is a chief scientist and oceanographer by training and a writer by choice. She is the author of Climbing the Stairs and Island’s End, both multi-award winners.  Padma was born in India, but is now an American citizen. Visit Padma at her website. It has discussion questions and teaching resources.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

The War that Saved My Life

The War that Saved Life9780803740815_p0_v2_s260x420The War that Saved my Life

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Author

Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Jan. 8, 2015

Pages: 316

Suitable for Grade Levels – 4 – 7

Themes: WW II, Evacuation of children, London, Siblings, Family relationships, Disabilities, Identity

Opening: “Ada! Get back from that window!” Mam’s voice, shouting. Mam’s arm, grabbing mine, yanking me so I toppled off my chair and fell hard to the floor.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother, Jamie, is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute — she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan — and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But, in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

What I like about this book:

  • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s story tugs at her reader’s heart-strings from the first page. It is a captivating journey about pain, love (lost and found), freedom from the past and victory over obstacles. The narrative is in Ada’s voice.
  • The setting is vivid and realistic, from Ada’s window perch to the beautiful English countryside, Susan Smith’s home, the airfield, and the community that love and support the siblings. The story is rich in detail of how WW II changed British family life. And there are spies and bombs. The author did a lot of research.
  • The story is character driven.  Readers will be captivated by Ada’s spirit and strong will.  She is a survivor and makes her escape from her one-room prison, Mam, and Hitler’s bombs.  In Ada, we see how abusive relationships can be more crippling than her clubbed foot. Ada shows signs of detachment when she finds it hard to trust and get close to Susan. Instead she bonds with a pony named Butter even though she wants to believe in love and acceptance.
  • The strong plot is fast-moving with unexpected surprises and twists that have the reader quickly turning pages.
  • The War that Saved My Life is a story that will stay with you long after you put it down. Once I finished the story, I wasn’t ready to let it go. I thought about the characters the next day and reread the last four chapters the next evening. For me, this is a book worth reading!

My Favorite Ada lines: I was greeted with smiles and shouts of “There’s our little spy-catcher! or “There’s our good lass!”  It was if I’d been born in the village. As if I’d been born with two strong feet. As if I really was someone important, someone loved.”

Resources: There is a teacher’s guide available for Bradley’s novel.

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a longtime Anglophile, first became interested in World War II evacuees, when her mother read Bedknobs and Broomsticks out loud at bedtime. Her historical fiction has garnered great acclaim: Jefferson’s Sons received four starred reviews, Ruthie’s Gift was a Publishers Weekly Flying Start, and For Freedom was an IRA Teacher’s Choice and Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. Visit Bradley at her website.

My Sister, Alicia May

My Sister Alicia9780979203596_p0_v1_s260x420,jpgMy Sister, Alicia May

Nancy Tupper Ling, Author

Shennen Bersani, Illustrator

Pleasant St. Press, Fiction, 2009

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Down Syndrome, Sisters, Bullying, Special Needs

Opening: BANG! Every morning Alicia May throws open my bedroom door. Crack! The “Stay Out!” sign falls to the floor.  “Here I am!” she crises “Rise and shine!”

Synopsis: In many ways, Rachel and Alicia are like any sisters. But Rachel knows her sister is very different, and very special. She has Down syndrome. Alicia May likes dogs and horses, is curious about ladybugs and dragonflies, talks to animals at the zoo and calls them funny names, loves to paint her nails, is friendly and gives good hugs. Sometimes Alicia May is annoying and embarrassing and Rachel doesn’t want to be around her. But, when boys on the bus tease Alicia May, Rachel is the first to stand up for her sister.

Why I like this story: This is a heartwarming story for siblings of children with Down’s syndrome. Nancy Tupper Ling based the story on the lives of two real sisters she’s close friends with.  It is a compassionate story that offers a peek into the daily life of a child with special needs and the complexities for the family. I like that the story is told from Rachel’s viewpoint.  Shennen Bersani’s illustrations are colorful pastels and almost photographic in their detail. Look at the pictures of the girls at the end of the book as she has really captured their features and personalities. Check out Nancy Tupper Ling’s website.

Resources: Contact the National Down Syndrome Society for more information on resources, success stories, transition tool kits, caring for your family and advocacy.

 

Let’s Hear it for Almigal

Let’s Hear it for Almigal

Wendy Kupfer, author

Tammie Lyon, illustrator

Handfinger Press, Fiction, May 2012

Suitable for: 4 and up

Award:  Mom’s Choice Awards Honoring Excellence.

Themes:  Hearing Impairment, Cochlear implants, Differences, Self-confidence, Friendship, Responsibility

Opening“Hi, my name is Almigal.  (Actually, my real name is Ali, but I prefer Almigal because I don’t know anyone else with that name.)  And, I am absolutely, positively the luckiest girl in the world!   Do you know why?  Because I have so many friends and each one is different.”

Synopsis:  Ali is a little girl who is hearing impaired and wears pink hearing aids.  So is her best friend, Penelope, who wears purple hearing aids.  Ali wants to hear every single sound she can: a robin chirping, the Swan song Madam plays during ballet class, and a baby giggling.  But, most of all she wants to hear her parents say “We love you, Almigal.”  Her doctor suggests she may hear better if she has an operation so she can wear cochlear implants.   Almigal’s world changes overnight and she realizes how much more she can hear.  And that change comes with some big responsibilities for a little girl wearing cotton-candy pink cochlear implants.

Why I like this book:   Let’s Hear It For Almigal is based on a true story that celebrates diversity.  Author Wendy Kupfer’s daughter was diagnosed at age 10 months with a “profound hearing loss” and told that she would never speak.  But Wendy and her daughter never gave up.  Their story is a positive and inspirational one for parents who have children with hearing impairments.   Wendy beautifully shows how our differences can become our strengths.  Ali is feisty, strong and confident, and has a group of friends who support her.   As a parent of a hearing impaired daughter, I wished I had this book 20 yeas ago.  I had my daughter read the book and she said it would have helped her feel less isolated from her classmates.  This is an uplifting book for kids who wear hearing aids or have cochlear implants.  The book should be in every school library and available for teachers to use in the classroom at the beginning of the school year if they have a student with hearing aids or cochlear implants.  Tammie Lyon has illustrated a very colorful, lively and vibrant book.  Her illustrations capture this spunky little girl and her BIG personality.  Tammie is also known for her work on the Eloise series as well as her new series, Katie Woo.

Resources:  The book is an excellent resource because it will evoke a lot of discussion among students.   You can visit Wendy Kupfer and Ali at her website and find other resources, activities and coloring pages.  Wendy and Ali have become passionate advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing.   They recommend the following resources for parents:  Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Hands and Voices Cochlear Implants Center,  and the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.

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.

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

“Nobody’s Perfect” and “Deaf Child Crossing”

Nobody’s Perfect

Marlee Matlin and Doug Cooney, Authors

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2007 , Fiction

Suitable for: Grades 4 -7 (Ages 8-12)

Themes:  Deaf, Hearing Impairment, Autism, Perfection, Disabilities

Deaf since she was 18 months old, Marlee Matlin draws upon her own childhood experiences in her middle grade novel Nobody’s Perfect, a companion to her first book Deaf Child Crossing.  Her protagonist, Megan Merrill, is a strong, happy and spirited 4th grader who is engaging from the start.  Megan has been planning her “positively purple birthday party sleepover” for months  She returns to school from Christmas vacation with purple invitations for all 11 girls in her class.   A new girl, Alexis Powell, joins the class.   Alexis distances herself from the other girls, excels in school and sports, and appears to be perfect.   Megan makes many attempts to be a friend to Alexis, who is rude and mean.  Megan begins to think that Alexis doesn’t like her because she is deaf.  When the teacher forces the girls to be partners on a science fair project, the tension escalates and Megan discovers there is something Alexis has been hiding.  The girls learn an important lesson — no one is perfect.

What I like about this book:  The main character is deaf, but Marlee created a protagonist with so much spunk and compassion for others.  There are brief mentions of the tutor who signs for her during class.   Megan wonders if the new girl doesn’t like her because she’s deaf.  But, she is centered enough that she is the one who gives the rude new girl many second chances, until there is a major confrontation between the two girls.   But, Megan is your average fourth grader who is interested in school, parties and friendships.  This is a great book for girls with hearing impairments.  The novels first grabbed my attention because I have a daughter who is hearing impaired.  She is an adult now, but I would have loved to have handed her these books when she was 10.   Megan is a great role model for girls who are deaf or hearing impaired.  This book is more about ability than disability.

Deaf Girl Crossing

Marlee Matlin

Aladdin Fiction, 2004

Suitable for: Grades 4-7  (Ages 8-12)

Themes:  Deaf, Friendship, Summer Camp

Megan is excited when she learns a new girl her age is moving into the neighborhood.  She is also apprehensive and wonders if the new girl will make fun of her because she is deaf and wears hearing aids.  She’s tired of having to stick up for herself.  Megan meets Cindy and they become best friends very quickly.  Cindy soon learns sign language so she can better communicate with Megan.

The girls decide to go to summer camp together and bunk in the same cabin.   Cindy tries to help Megan by speaking for her.  Megan is upset and ignores Cindy, who is clueless.  Their friendship is further tested when Megan meets another camper who is deaf.  Megan becomes fast friends with Lizzie and they sign faster than Cindy can understand.   Their friendship is at stake and they must find a way to repair the wounds.

What I like about this book:  This book is the first book in the series.  Megan is a feisty and willful girl.  She has learned to stand up for herself because of her hearing impairment.  Megan wants to be normal and do things for herself.  So, she’s embarrassed when her friend Cindy steps in to help her.  Cindy doesn’t understand.  There are many lessons to be learned in this story   including what is a best friend.  It applies to all friendships.  These lessons play out in Matlin’s second book, Nobody’s Perfect.

Just Because by Rebecca Elliott

Just Because

Rebecca Elliott, author and illustrator

Lion UK,  April 2011, Fiction

Suitable for:  Children 3 to 8 years

Theme:  Disability, Acceptance, Sibling Friendship

Synopsis:  “My big sister Clemmie is my best friend.  She can’t walk, talk, move around much, cook macaroni, pilot a plane, juggle or do algebra.  I don’t know why she doesn’t do these things.  Just because.”  Toby’s sister Clemmie is his best friend.  She can’t walk, talk, move around very much or cook macaroni.  Toby recognizes the differences, but doesn’t really understand why.  Just because.   Clemmie makes noises, wears silly hats,  makes funny faces and makes Toby laugh.  Just because.  Clemmie in turn doesn’t mind Toby making loud noises, chasing the cat, or eating crayons.   Just because.  And, when there is a thunderstorm, Toby gets scared but Clemmie keeps him calm.  Just because that’s how things are between them.  There is a lovely simplicity about this story.

Why I like this book:  It is a heartwarming story about the strong bond between siblings.  I find her book refreshing because it doesn’t mention the word disability.  The main theme is about the unconditional love and acceptance of a brother and sister.  Elliott’s illustrations are colorful, bold and magical.   It is a book that families who have a child with a disability will find endearing and helpful.  Use this book to encourage sibling friendship.

Activity:  It’s a tough balancing act for parents who have a child with a special need.  It is important to include the children in joint activities.  But it is important that each child in the family receives special time with the parents.  Acknowledge the feelings of both the child with a special needs and the siblings.  Have the siblings draw pictures about how they feel.  Involve the sibling in the care of a disabled child.   Seek out support groups related to your child’s disability.  For more books with resources please visit Perfect Picture Books.

You Can Be a Friend

By:  Tony & Lauren Dungy
Illustrator:  Ron Mazellan
Publisher:  Little Simon Inspirations
Ages: 4-8 yrs.                                                
 
 
 
 
                                   
I purchased You Can Be a Friend,  for my granddaughter before she starts kindergarten next fall.  I am grateful to authors  Tony and Lauren Dungy, for writing this inspirational and important book about family values and friendships.   Having friends is one of the most beneficial aspects of a child’s life.  But what if the child has a disability?   The Dungys artfully show  that “having limitations can never limit the boundaries of friendship.”   The Mazellan’s illustrations are simply beautiful.
 
Jade is over-the-hill excited when she discovers  a new girl moving into the house across the street.  Her wish has come true.  She has grown up in a family of all boys and there are no other girls living nearby.   She will have a friend at last.  The Dungy family bakes cookies for the new family, and they go welcome their new neighbors.   When Jade meets  Hannah, she’s not ready to find her in a wheel chair.   She assumes that Hannah can’t do any of the things that she does.  Jade’s not sure if she can be friends with Hannah.  Over time Jade gets to know Hannah and they become good friends.  Hannah teaches Jade to bowl, they share secrets and   play games.  She also realizes that there are things Hannah can’t do.   Jade’s birthday is approaching and she wants to invite Hannah to her party.  But, the party site will cause problems for her friend.  Jade has some important decisions to make.       
 
You Can Be a Friend is an excellent book for parents to introduce children to disabilities, and a great class room discussion book.  All children want to play and interact with other children.  Children with disabilities want to share similar experiences with their siblings and friends.   Having a good friend means sharing both the good and difficult times.