Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Wishtree

Katherine Applegate, Author

Feiwel & Friends, Fiction, Sep. 26, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Trees, Wishes, Crows, Animals, Friendship, Tolerance

Opening: It’s hard to talk to trees. We’re not big on chitchat. That’s not to say we can’t do amazing things, things you’ll probably never do. Cradle downy owlets. Steady flimsy tree forts. Photosynthesize. But talk to people? Not so much.

Synopsis:

Red is an oak tree who is 216 rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree.” Every May 1 people come from all over town to write their most private wishes on pieces of paper, cloth, and socks and tie them to Red’s branches. He holds their hopes and dreams in his limbs. Then, they whisper their wish. Red listens but never responds. It’s against the rules for a tree to speak to a human.

Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood. Red has seen a lot of change over 200 years.

When a Muslim family moves in, Red observes how Samar and her family are treated by neighbors. Not everyone is welcoming.  Nasty threats are carved on his trunk, eggs are thrown, and ugly words shouted from passing cars.  More than ever, Red wants to fulfill Samar’s wish to find a friend. When Red learns the property owner may have some plans for him, he breaks some rules and ask his friends for help.

Why I like this book:

Katherine Applegate’s heartwarming middle grade novel is magical and conveys a message that is relevant today. It also reminds us of our common humanity.

The story is narrated by Red, a red oak tree, with compassion, concern, wisdom, and a sense of humor; no easy task for an author. Red’s branches and hollows are home to a birds and a furry cast of comical characters (owls, raccoons, opossums, skunks, cats and a crow) who live to together in harmony — most of the time. Red and his residents communicate openly with each other, but not with humans. Once a year Red is a wishtree for the town. Red’s world is vibrant and harbors a secret that needs to be shared.

Wishtree is a quiet and thoughtful read aloud with the entire family or in the classroom. It has a strong plot that with themes the encourage readers think about diversity, inclusion, acceptance, kindness and the true nature of friendship. It is a delightful mix that will keep readers turning pages. The story has Common Core connections.

For the next few months Greg Pattridge will be hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Thank you Greg for keeping MMGM active while author Shannon Messenger is on tour promoting her sixth book, Nightfall, in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, which was released November 7.

Books for Nourishing Friendship Series by Michael Genhart

Today I am sharing three new children’s titles that are part of Books for Nourishing Friendship Series, by author Michael Genhart and illustrator Steve Mack. They are captivating, funny and carry a powerful message that school children will understand.  They were published by Magination Press on Aug. 7, 2017, just in time for school.  The books are suitable for children ages 4-7 years.

Peanut Butter & Jellyous…sometimes friendships get sticky

Synopsis: Peanut Butter & Jellyous is a playful story about two best friends — Peanut Butter and Jelly. They are always together. When Peanut Butter wants to hang out with other friends, Jelly is very sad and jealous. Peanut Butter encourages Jelly to meet some new friends. They realize that they can explore new friendships with different kids and preserve their own original friendship.  The more friends, the merrier.

Themes: Best Friends, Friendship, Jealousy, Food

Cake & I Scream!…being bossy isn’t sweet

Synopsis: Cake & Ice Cream! is a story about a Cake who likes to spice things up and his best friend, Ice Cream who is cool and tries to get his way by being loud and bossy. When Ice Cream wants something, he wants it right now — even at the expense of knocking over Hot Fudge and demanding Sprinkles come to a party but not Nuts. When Candle gets burned out and leaves in a huff, Ice Cream finds himself sad and alone.  Ice Cream soon learns that screaming at everyone is a fast way to lose friends. Perhaps being bossy isn’t sweet at all!

Themes: Friendship, Ice Cream, Cake, Being Bossy

Mac and Geeeez!…being real is what it’s all about

Synopsis: This is a whimsical story about Mac and Cheese, who are best friends. When they are together, they get along really well. But when Cheese starts cutting up and showing off, he really grates on Mac’s nerves.  Cheese tries too hard to be popular by acting like someone he’s not and in all the wrong ways. Eventually, Cheese realizes he doesn’t have to be the “Big Cheese” and that being his warm self is the best way to be.

Themes: Friendship, Macaroni, Cheese, Getting attention in all the wrong ways

Why I like the Books for  Nourishing Friendship Series:

Michael Genhart’s text is lively, lyrical and will charm young children. He uses fun food word play and a good dose of humor in all three books.

Children will relate to strong and memorable characters that jump off the pages, identify with their friendship problems and learn some learn new strategies for coping. The characters deal with their own issues and do their own problem solving in all three stories — no adults involved.

Steve Mack’s illustrations are bold and colorful and explode off each pages. He captures the priceless expressions of the characters, which will make kids laugh out loud. Children do their own problem solving in all three stories. No adults involved.

Resources: This series will be a winning one with children. They are perfect classroom books for the beginning of a new school year. The three books include a Note to Parents and Educators with information about jealousy, bossy behavior, getting attention in all the wrong ways, and strategies to help guide children to cope and behave while being mindful of others’ feelings.

*The publisher provided me with an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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 website.

Big and Little Are Best Friends by Michael Garland

Big and Little Are Best Friends

Michael Garland, Author and Illustrator

Orchard Books, Fiction, May 9, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Animals, Elephants, Mice, Best Friends, Differences, Acceptance, Rhyme

Opening: Big and Little / Are best of friends. / Though the things / that they like / Are at opposite ends.

Synopsis: Big is an elephant and Little is a mouse.  They are opposites in every possible way. One likes loud music, the other prefers soft. One loves hot weather, the other loves cold. One is shy and the other is bold. One wears plain, the other wears frilly. They are as different as night and day. Sometimes they fight, but they always make put their friendship first.

Why I like this book:

Michael Garland has written a timely and heartwarming story for children that celebrates tolerance. Elephant and a mouse are very different in surprising ways, but they learn to compromise and accept each other. They learn that they don’t need to change who they are in order to become best friends. Elephant and mouse discover that their differences can lead to a lot of fun when they are together. The story also breaks down some preconceived stereotypes.

Garland’s simple rhyming text includes fun synonyms and antonyms and is perfect for beginning readers. Garland’s signature double page-spreads feature lively, humorous and colorful illustrations that will appeal to children’s imaginations.

Resources: Use Garland’s concept book to teach children about opposites, like “big and little.”  Ask children their favorite color, food, toy, sport, book, movie and so on. Compare the similarities and differences with siblings or classmates. Apply the idea to friendship. Would they still be friends if one liked cake and the other preferred pie?  Depending upon the age of the child, you may want to include bigger topics that include diversity.

Michael Garland has 35 books in print. Four of Garland’s books are New York Times Bestsellers, and Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook won State Reading Awards in Delaware, California and Texas. He lives in Patterson, NY.  You can visit Garland at his website.

You and Me – Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds

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Susan Verde, Author

Peter H. Reynolds, Illustrator

Abrams Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Jan. 6, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Best Friends, Cats, Friendship, Fate, Rhyme

Opening: “Sometimes I think of how things came to be. / How we met. / How we became best friends. / You and me.”

Publisher’s SynopsisYou and Me is a loving tribute to how fate brought two best friends together. An adorable cat muses about the what-ifs in life: What if he had slept late that one special morning? What if he’d missed his train on that fateful day? Then he might never have met his favorite person in the world, and his entire life would be different!

Why I like this book: Susan Verde has written a charming tale about a serendipitous meeting between two cats at a train station– one yellow and the other purple. It is a heartwarming story about a friendship.

  • You and Me introduces children to the curious concept of life encounters that are due to chance meetings, perfect timing, fate or serendipity. The theme may seem a little big for children, but it is a concept they will quickly grasp, question and have great fun discussing.
  • Children will be amused with the yellow cat’s “what if’s.” “What if I had slept in, cover pulled up to my chin?…If I had sung opera in the shower…Or if the clock had been slow and I was late, lingering over my breakfast plate…”  Would they have ever become friends forever?
  • Verde’s narrative text is lyrical, sweet and simple for children. Adults will enjoy reading this lighthearted tale to children and reminiscing over serendipitous moments and magical encounters in their own lives.
  • Peter H. Reynolds’ illustrations are lively, whimsical and add a joyful spirit to the special friendship between the two cats.  His colorful illustrations are rendered in pen and ink, watercolor, and are playful and expressive. Great collaboration between Reynolds and Verde.
  • Visit Verde and Reynolds at their websites.

Resources: Who doesn’t like to think about fate, destiny, chance meetings, fate and serendipity. Big words for kids, but easily understood and fun to play with.  This story will trigger interesting conversations with children about the role of perfect timing plays out in their own lives. Ask them how they met some of their friends. Was it unplanned or unexpected? Was it a surprise? Did it lead to a friendship? This would make for a fun family or classroom discussion.

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.

Making Friends Is an Art!

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Julia Cook, Author

Bridget A. Barnes, Illustrator

Boys Town Press, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes:  Friendship, Interpersonal relations in children, Life Skills

Opening/Synopsis:  “My name is Brown.  I spend a lot of time in a pencil box with a bunch of other colors.  We are all different.  Some of us are sharper than others.  Some of us are long and others are short.”   Brown is the tallest pencil in the box.  This means he is the least used pencil in the box.  And he doesn’t feel like he fits in very well with the others.  “I don’t have much to smile about.  I am Brown, tall geeky and lonely…that’s me!”  Brown envies Red, BlueOrange, Yellow, Green, and Purple who color and play together.  Blue gives hugs.  Orange likes to have fun.  Green is honest. White keeps the peace.  Pink listens.  And everyone loves Red.  When Brown talks to Blue and Green, he learns that if wants good friends, he has to be a good friend.  So he asks all the other pencils why they don’t like him and learns a lot of surprising things about himself.  It is Black who points out that “when all the colors are mixed together they make Brown.”  He has all the colors inside him.  Will he be able to use all the other colors to like himself, recognize his own strengths and be a better friend?

Why I like this book:  Julia Cook has written a humorous fun and colorful book that all kids will identify with.   What better way to teach kids about differences than through art.  There are tall kids, short kids, popular kids,  shy kids, happy kids and sad kids in every classroom.  Differences add to the dynamics of the classroom.  This book really focuses on helping children building interpersonal relationships with other children.   Bridget Barnes’ illustrations are bright, lively and expressive.   This title is the first in a new series of Julia Cook’s books focusing on relationship-building  skills for children.  It is perfect for the classroom.

Resources:  There is a backpage at the back of the book with constructive tips for parents, teachers and counselors to work with kids in building the life skills they require to be a good friend.  In the classroom, ask each child to pick the color of a pencil he/she feels they could identify with most and why.   This will make for an interesting classroom discussion.  Visit Julia Cook’s website,  to view the many books she has written.

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.

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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. 

Journey with me…

 

 

Special-needs-children-222x225Welcome to Children’s Books Heal!   I specifically chose to use “heal” in my blog name, because I felt it more inclusive of what I wanted to communicate — books have the power to heal.  Many of the books I plan to  review will focus on children and teens with special needs.   It’s  a broad category ranging from autism, Asperger’s syndrome, cancer, cerebral palsy, hearing and visual impairments to anxiety, ADHD, intellectual disability, adoption, divorce and grief.  I also will target books that are  multicultural,  about peace, conflict resolution, virtues, and the power of music and the arts to heal.  Each book will be hand-picked for the quality of its message.

In January 2011, Scholastic, the largest publisher of children’s books, released the Top 10 Trends in Children’s Books from 2010.    Among those trends was an increase in fiction with main characters who have special needs.  Examples included My Brother Charlie, Marcel in the Real World, and Mockingbird — all great books I will share.

According to a study published by Brigham Young University professors in the December 2010 issue of Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities,  “Despite an increasingly positive portrayal  of characters with disabilities in Newbery Award-winning books, there still is not an accurate representation of the nearly 7 million children with disabilities attending U.S. public schools.”   They studied Newbery Award and Honor books published from 1975 to 2009.

“We are hoping that this will be a call to authors,”  said Professor Tina Dyches.  “We’ve got so many wonderful authors in the world and we would love to see more inclusive characterizations in high quality books where kids with disabilities are being recognized for who they are no not just the limitations of their disabilities.”

I am a journalist and writer who  hopes to review high quality books for children and students with special needs.  I bring with me many life experiences.  My husband and I have a large blended family, with two adopted children, one a foreign adoption.  We have parented children with disabilities and special needs.  I also know what it is like to live as an adult with a disability, as I had a serious brain injury seven years ago.  And, I know how grief impacts children and families.  In 2009, our grandson was a casualty of the war in Iraq.   These experiences have influenced my choice in writing books for children, and the theme for my blog.

Please join me in my journey of writing and blogging.

Patricia