My Storee by Paul Russell

My Storee: Just Because You Can’t Spell Doesn’t Mean you Can’t Write

Paul Russell, Author

Aska, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Oct. 2, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Dyslexia, Spelling, Reading, Writing stories, Creativity

Opening: “Storees keep me awaik at nite and counting sheep neva helps becos I no a grand adventur is allways waiting four me at the end ov my pencil.”

Book Synopsis:

A boy has a big imagination and loves to write down his stories. He writes about unicorns, dragons laying rainbow eggs, robotic pirates and gruesome ogres. When he writes them down and turns them into his teacher, they come back covered with red marks circling his spelling.  He becomes discouraged that his dyslexia keeps him from sharing his stories.

One day a new teacher arrives at his school full of energy and enthusiasm Mr. Watson tells magical stories about objects he has hidden in his briefcase and covers the chalk board with his funny drawings.  Mr. Watson makes the students feel safe and inspires them to be themselves. So the boy decides to share his dragon story. Instead of red marks, Mr. Watson asks the boy about his dragon story.

Why I like this book:

Paul Russell has written an inspiring and hopeful story for children who are dyslexic and  find spelling challenging. It also is a story for all children who are learning to spell and write. It encourages kids to use their imaginations and creativity to express all of the ideas that want to be heard.

And Russell “gets” the struggle dyslexic students and reluctant writers face when putting their ideas onto paper. He was that dyslexic boy who was inspired to become a writer and  teacher because one special teacher believed in him.

Aska’s colorful illustrations that are infused with imagination, humor and expression. I chuckled my way through these detailed beauties. Aska worked with around 70 children, many of whom were dyslexic or had reading difficulties. The children helped her design the book’s imaginary world through the stories they created! Make sure you check out the end pages as they are a lot of fun!

Resources: Encourage kids to write an imaginative story without worrying about spelling. The idea is not to be perfect, but just to have fun with writing something silly or serious. This book belongs in every school library.

Paul Russell is a teacher, artist, playwright, author and father of two. His book, Grandma Forgets, was a CBCA Notable book.

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.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Just Dance by Patricia MacLachlan

Just Dance

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Margaret K. McElderry Books, Fiction, Sep, 12,  2017

Suitable for Ages: 7 and up (Grades 3-5)

Themes: Families, Country life, Singer, Reporter, Newspaper writing

Book Synopsis:

Sylvie Bloom does not understand her mother. She used to be a famous opera singer and Sylvie can’t figure out why she would give up her singing career in front of thousands of people for life on their small Casper, Wyoming farm. Sylvie wants something more exciting than that for herself this summer. She wants an adventure.

Sylvie’s teacher, Mrs. Ludolf, notices her writing talent and suggests that Sylvie take over Sheriff Ludolf’s   local newspaper column. Her job will be to report on the local happenings and follow the sheriff on his rounds. But even as she starts writing about town events, Sylvie can’t help but wonder if she and her younger brother, Nate, have been holding their mother back from doing the same. Nate is more philosophical and tells Sylvie she has “too many preconceived notions.” And when her mother’s old duet partner James Grayson writes that he’s coming to perform nearby, will she be tempted to return to the stage, without them?

Why I like this story:

Just Dance is a cozy book and a perfect summer read. MacLachlan has written a heartfelt and lyrical story about family love, community and music, in her signature minimal style. The setting is so vivid that it makes you want to go live on the prairie near Sylvie’s small town.

Throughout the story, Sylvie’s mother’s beautiful voice is heard in the background — a mystery for Sylvie. Her mother sings in the shower, while her family gathers outside the door to listen and name the music. Her mother sings a different song to the cattle, sheep and chickens and they stop to listen. As do the passing neighbors who hear her lilting voice across the fields — even the crows.

MacLachlan’s characters are memorable with emotional depth. Sylvie, like her mother, has her own talents. As she travels about town with the local sheriff reporting the daily news, she admires his wisdom and compassionate approach to solving problems. She meets a kindred spirit in Tinker, who lives very simply with his wolf, Bernie. Tinker is a poet, artist and observer of life and encourages Sylvie, who writes her columns in free verse or as a Haiku poem. Here’s a sample of Sylvie’s artistic way of reporting for the paper, which the community enjoys:

Sheep in the meadow

Blue-eyed man and a sweet friend

A good day of peace. (Meeting Tinker)

_____________

Boys too young to say

Build a fire on windswept day

Sent home, ponder deeds.  (Boys playing with fire)

________________

Wily crowd of crows

Back to plunder Elmer’s corn

Maybe try sweet song?

Just Dance is a quiet novel to savor. It’s about how Sylvie finds a way to express her own unique voice, while she tries to understand her mother’s choice to leave the lime light for a prairie. This is a good book for kids moving into middle grade books. With short chapters, it can also be read out loud to young children.

Patricia MacLachlan is the celebrated author of many timeless novels for young readers, including Newbery Medal winner Sarah, Plain and Tall; Word After Word After Word; Kindred Souls; The Truth of Me; The Poet’s Dog; and My Father’s Words. She is also the author of countless beloved picture books, a number of which she cowrote with her daughter, Emily. She lives in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.