I See You by Michael Genhart

I See You

Michael Genhart, PhD, Author

Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 9, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Homelessness, Poverty, Child’s reaction, Empathy, Kindness, Social Justice

Synopsis: I See You is a wordless picture book that depicts a homeless woman who is invisible to everyone around her—except for a little boy. Over the course of a year, the boy observes the woman sitting at a bus stop bench, walking down the street, being barked at by dogs, rummaging through trash cans, receiving scowls from customers in a café, and shivering on a snowy bench in the winter. He is a witness to her life on the streets and all that she endures to survive. In a beautiful gesture of compassion, the boy acknowledges her through an exchange in which he sees her and she experiences being seen.

What I like about this book:

Michael Genhart’s wordless picture book is about heart, compassion and connecting with others. It is the a perfect medium to open the door for children and parents to begin a conversation about the many kinds of  homelessness. It also encourages children to study the detailed illustrations a little more carefully and use their imaginations to tell the story.  The boy is an inspiration and reminder of a child’s untainted generosity.

The emotion and candor captured by this story are beautifully brought to life in Joanne Lew-Vriethoff’s heartfelt and vivid illustrations. They are particularly important in evoking the necessary caring response from the boy and the annoyance of strangers.

Resources: In a Note for Parents, Educators, and Neighbors, there are discussion questions and additional resources about helping the homeless.  There is also a section on how children can get involved by making very simple Care Bags. There are many activities kid can do to help the homeless:  donate to local food pantries, donate clothing and toiletry items, books, clean toys to shelters. Visit Michael Genhart at his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the links to Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Soul Moon Soup

Soul Moon1886910871Soul Moon Soup

Lindsay Lee Johnson, Author

Front Street, Fiction, Reprint edition 2008

Suitable for Ages: 10-14

Themes:  Artist, Homelessness, Loneliness, Poverty, Different Families

Synopsis:  Phoebe Rose dreams of becoming an artist.  Her father is her biggest supporter until one day he leaves and never returns.  Phoebe  and her mother find themselves forced to live on the streets.  They are homeless wandering from one soup kitchen and shelter to another.  Their only possession, one suitcase that holds all of their belongings and memories.  Phoebe’s spirit begins to fade, she stops drawing and sinks into despair.  When someone steals their suitcase, her mother sends her to live with her Gran at Full Moon Lake.  Healing is slow, until she finds a friend in Ruby, who encourages Phoebe to draw again.  Slowly Phoebe begins to find strength within herself until her mother returns and she has to make some decisions.

What I like about this book:  This moving story of sadness, loss, relationships and finding yourself, also has an element of beauty.  It is narrated in a series of poems or verse by Phoebe Rose as she describes the emptiness, loneliness, and hopelessness of existing day-to-day on the streets.  Lindsay Lee Johnson tells a compelling, lyrical and soulful story through the voice of an 11-year-old girl.  Her story will linger in your heart long after you’ve put the story down.  You really get a glimpse into Phoebe’s pain and suffering.  The plot is strong.  This book is a stark reminder that there are many children who are homeless and live on the streets in our cities.  I highly recommend this book because it help teens understand the humanity of the homeless.  Hopefully, it will encourage them to find a way to get involved.

Resource:  I reviewed A Kid’s Guide to Hunger and Homelessness: A Guide to Action by Free Spirit Press, in June.  It shows many ways kids can get involved through youth groups.

A Kids’ Guide to Hunger and Homelessness

Last Friday I reviewed a picture book for children about homelessness, Lily and the Paper Man, by Rebecca Upjohn.  Today I’m following up with a brief review of a hands-on workbook for kids and how they can be part of the solution.

Hunger Guide9781575422404_p0_v1_s260x420A Kids’ Guide to Hunger & Homelessness: How to Take Action

Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A.

Free Spirit Publishing, 2007

Suitable for Ages: 10 -17

Themes:  Homelessness, Hunger, Understanding the problems, Taking action

Book OverviewKids explore what others in the world (including young people) have done and are doing to address the issues, find out what their community needs, and develop a service project. The workbook includes facts, quotations, real-life examples, write-on pages, resources, a note to adults—and a lot of inspiration to get out there and make a difference in the world. Includes exclusive interviews with author and activist Francis Moor Lappé, and Lindsey Lee Johnson, author of Soul Moon Soup, the story of a girl living on the streets with her mother.

Why I like this guide:  Children are caring and compassionate and want to help when they see a need. Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A.,  has carefully designed this exceptional guide to show four major stages children must learn to be of service: Preparation, Action, Reflection and Demonstration.  Children first learn all they can about hunger and homelessness in the Preparation stage. Once they prepare themselves they are encouraged to think about whether their Action is direct, indirect, advocacy or research. The third stage involves Reflection on what they have learned to decide what they want to do. The final stage, kids Demonstrate what they want to accomplish and what unique skills they have to give to the project.  This is an excellent workbook for parents, teachers and  youth group leaders to use at home, in the classroom, at church and in youth service programs. It will help children focus on both local and global issues. We are living during a time when the face of hunger and homelessness is rapidly changing.  Children may see a family member or a neighbor suddenly hungry and homeless. Kaye’s guide empowers children to look at tough issues and take action.

Other ResourcesFree Spirit Publishing has a How to Take Action! series by Cathryn Berger Kaye. There are guides for climate change and global warming, protecting and caring for animals, service learning, and kids helping kids to read and succeed. There is a teen guide for saving our oceans and waterways. Visit the Free Spirit Publishing website.

Lily and the Paper Man

Lily and Paper Man9781897187197_p0_v1_s260x420Lily and the Paper Man

Rebecca Upjohn, Author

Renée Benoit, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction, 2007

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes: Homelessness, Hunger, Compassion

Opening“Shall we take the bus home today?”  Lily’s mother asks.  Lily peers from under her umbrella.  “Let’s walk.  I like the rain.”  She takes her mother’s hand to cross the street.  Her mother goes around the puddles.  Lily skips through them.

Synopsis:  During her walk home, Lily backs into a scraggly looking man who is selling newspapers.  His clothing is ragged and he is soaked from the rain.  Lily is frightened.  Her mother gives the man a dollar and thanks him for the paper.  Lily and her mother have many encounters with the man outside a favorite shop.  But as the seasons change, Lily begins to see him differently.  Winter arrives and she sees that his coat is thin and has holes.  The soles on his shoes reveal bare toes peeking through the ends.  He has no gloves or hat and his ears are red from the cold.  Lily is so concerned about the paper man, that the images of him on the street makes her toss and turn in bed — until she comes up with an idea.

Why I like this book:   There are very few children’s books about the homeless.   Rebecca Upjohn tells a compelling and heartwarming story about how a little girl makes a difference for one man.  Children by nature are compassionate and want to help, and this is a perfect book to talk about the many kinds of homelessness.  There is a lovely marriage between art and text in this beautiful story. Renée Benoit’s illustrations are vivid and evoke a lot of compassion from the reader.

Resources:  This is a good discussion book with kids.  What would you do if you saw some one in great need?  There are many activities kid can do to help the homeless:  donate to local food pantries, donate clothing and toiletry items, books, clean toys to shelters.  Visit Rebecca Upjohn’s website where she has a teacher page of suggested activities and resources to use with children in the classroom.

Perfect Picture Book Friday will go on vacation after today’s post.  It will resume in September.  I will cut back on my posts this summer, but will continue to post some picture books,  middle grade and young adult reviews.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Ivy Homeless in San Francisco

Ivy Homeless in San Francisco

Summer Brenner, Author

Brian Bowes, Illustrator

PM Press, June 2011, Paperback

Suitable for: Pre-teen Fiction,  (Ages 9 and Up)

Themes:  Homeless, Poverty, Hope, Friendship

Ivy Homeless in San Francisco, is a compelling and riveting novel that reflects the alarming increase in the number of children who are homeless and living in poverty in America.  Ivy is one of those children.  Summer Brenner has masterfully crafted a book that is realistic, heartbreaking and funny.  It won  the 2011 Silver Award Winner for the Children’s Literary Classics Book Awards under the category of pre-teen fiction, and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award.  This is a  book that should be required reading for kids in Grade level 4 and up, because the face of homelessness is changing.  It offers students insight into the lives of those who live on the streets or in shelters.

Ivy is your average 11-year-old girl who lives in an artist loft with her father, Poppy.  She attends school and has a circle of friends.  One day everything changes when Poppy loses his job and  they are evicted from their home.  Ivy and her father find themselves homeless, living in sleeping bags in the park above the city at night, eating in shelters, and washing and brushing their teeth in public restrooms.  Ivy is embarrassed her friends will find out at school.   Because they are always on the move, Ivy begins to miss school.  Her classroom becomes the life she’s living, with nature lessons, visits to museums and libraries with Poppy.  Life may be harsh among nature’s elements, but it can also bring resilience, hope, adventure, quirky new friendships, kindness and an unexpected surprise.

 Reach and Teach is a peace and social justice learning company, transforming the world through teachable moments.  To learn more about homelessness and to find educational resources, lesson plans, and concrete ways to get involved in reducing the impact of homelessness on people of all ages, please visit www.reachandteach.com/ivy.  Recent studies show that one in 50 kids are homeless.  That represents 1.5 million children a year.  For more information contact the National Center on Family Homelessness and the National Association for the Education of  Homeless Children and Youth.  

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