Reena’s Rainbow by Dee White

Reena’s Rainbow

Dee White, Author

Tracie Grimwood, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Sep. 30, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 years

Themes: Friendship, Dog, Inclusion, Deaf, Homeless, Differences

Opening: In Reena’s world, sounds scattered and scrambled and made no sense. But her clear blue eyes saw everything.

Synopsis: Reena is deaf and Dog is homeless, but they are so much more than that. At first Reena and Dog feel like they don’t belong. But when they are a team they help each other. Reena is very observant and doesn’t miss a thing. When they play hide and seek with the other hearing children in the park, Dog shows the kids the best hiding places and Reena always finds them.  Their special bond and friendship helps them discover that everyone is different and special in their own way.

Why I like this book:

Dee White’s endearing story is about Reena’s abilities and not her disability.

The bond between Reena and Dog is unbreakable and heartwarming.  They find each other’s strengths and work together as a team so that Reena interacts more easily with other hearing children.

Reena has skills and heightened senses that help her navigate her world.  She notices things other children don’t, like a branch that breaks and nearly injures another child. When playing hide-and-seek, she’s clever because she notices “eyes peeping through pampas,” and a” pink cardigan camouflaged in cherry blossoms.”

The is a beautiful story of inclusion that teaches children how to respect and celebrate their strengths and differences. The rainbow symbolically embraces the range of differences in our colorful human family. It is a heartwarming story that also shows children the importance of acceptance and friendship.

Tracie Grimwood’s soft, pastel illustrations are lively and add a joyful spirit to the special friendship between a girl and her dog.  This is a beautiful collaboration between author and illustrator.

Resources: The book is an excellent is an excellent resource. Learning about differences offers new experiences and fosters compassion in children. Ask children if they know anyone with a disability. Make a list of the disabilities or differences they have seen. It will help them realize that we’re all humans, even if we may need to wear hearing aids, use a walking device or wheelchair, have Down Syndrome or autism.

*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.

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Doreen Rappaport, author

Matt Tavares, illustrator

Disney Hyperion Books, Biography, Oct. 16, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 6 and up

Themes: Deafblind people, Sign language, Braille, Courage, Wisdom

Opening/Synopsis:  “Helen gurgled and giggled in her crib.  At six months, she crawled and  said, ‘How-d’ye,’ and ‘wah-wah’ for water.  When she was one, she ran after a ray of sunshine.  She loved the mockingbird’s song and the sweet smell of climbing roses.  But best of all was being on her father’s lap and in her mother’s arms.”   When Helen was 19 months old, an illness took away her sight and speech.  She was surrounded by silence and darkness.  Helen tried to make up signs to communicate with her parents.  But her failure to make them understand turned into outbursts.  Annie Sullivan came to work with Helen when she was seven years old.  Helen learned sign language quickly and was considered a genius.  Annie taught her Braille so she could read books.  She learned to write with a pencil, read lips, speak, and to experience the world with enthusiasm.  Helen graduated from college with honors.  Helen’s journey out of darkness led to freedom and she taught people how very large her world was.

Why I like this book:  The title says it all “Helen’s Big World,”which is rich, full of life and not limited in any way.  This is an excellent introduction for young readers to learn about this most remarkable woman.  Doreen Rappaport beautifully captures the essence of this very inspirational child and woman, Helen Keller.  It is written in prose with quotes from Helen woven into the story on every page.  The book not only chronicles the story of Helen’s challenging and courageous life, but shows children how one can move beyond physical limitations, find their own gifts and change the world for the better.  The book is large and Matt Tavares’ illustrations are bold, colorful, emotional and lively.  The illustrator emphasizes what Helen can do.  This book is a feast for the soul.  Adults will also enjoy reading this treasure.  I love that the book title is also printed in braille on the front cover.

Favorite Quotes:  “We do not think with eyes and ears, and our capacity for thought is not measured by five senses.”

“The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people toward them.”

“I have the advantage of a mind trained to think, and that is the difference between myself and most people, not my blindness and their sight.”

Resources:  The book alone is a great resource.  There are back pages of resources and materials, as well as a page of the manual alphabet chart Annie Sullivan used with Helen.   The American Foundation for the Blind has great resources or kids and teachers, especially if you scroll down and click on the Braille Bug link.  Check out author Doreen Rappaport’s website.  This is an excellent book for the classroom.

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.

“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.