Blackbird Fly

Blackbird Fly 51bUN1QbdVL__SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Blackbird Fly

Erin Entrada Kelly, Author

Greenwillow Books, Fiction, Mar. 24, 2015

Paperback Reprint Mar. 1, 2016, 320 pages

Suitable for Ages: 8-12 years

Themes: Bullying, Outcasts, Filipino Americans, Family relationships, Friendships, Middle School, Music, Multicultural

Book Synopsis:  Twelve-year-old Apple Yengko believes that there are at least three interesting facts about every person on Earth. Unfortunately, her three IFs make her an outcast in Chapel Spring Middle School in Chapel Spring, Louisiana. She has slanted eyes, a weird Filipino nickname, and a weird mother.

When Apple is voted the third ugliest girl in school, her life quickly falls apart. The boys bark at her in the halls and rumors spread that she eats dogs for dinner. Music is her only escape. All she needs is enough money to buy a guitar, and then she’ll be able to change herself and her life forever. So what if her mother doesn’t understand and thinks she’s becoming too American. So what if her supposed best friends turn the other way…

It might be the Beatles and their music who save Apple, or Mr. Z (Chapel Spring Middle’s awesome music teacher) — or it could be two unexpected friends who show her that standing out in a crowd is better than getting lost in it.

Why I like this book:

  • This is a painfully realistic story by Erin Entrada Kelly about the impact of bullying on an Filipino-American teen who is trying to find her place in a Louisiana middle school. It is an emotionally honest novel about Apple, who feels like an outsider because of her ethnic background. Her best friends turn on her and their boyfriends put Apple on a secret Dog Log list of the ugliest girls at school. Teens who feel different and deal daily with cruelty in middle school, will find Apple a must read.
  • Apple is a strong, smart, quirky and likeable character who loves the Beatles, wants to play the guitar, and be the next George Harrison. Music is her only link to her deceased father. Her over protective mother forbids her to play the guitar or join the school swing choir at school. Apple is embarrassed by her mother who speaks with an accent, clings to old values and cooks Filipino foods. She becomes friends with a new boy, Evan Temple, who is self-assured and doesn’t care what others think of him. He accepts Apple for who she is and encourages her music. They befriend Helena Moffett, who is overweight, is on the Dog Log and has a secret weapon — a powerful singing voice.  Together, the three friends take on the bullies.
  • Kelly’s first-person narrative is extremely effective. The plot is courageous and stays true the theme of what it feels like to be an outsider. I love that Apple spreads her wings like her favorite Beatles song, Blackbird. The pacing is fast, which makes this novel a quick read. There are many unexpected surprises, including the ending which is happily satisfying. 

Erin Entrada Kelly grew up in south Louisiana. Her mother was the first in her family to immigrate to the United States from the Philippines.  Blackbird Fly is her debut novel. Visit Kelly at her website.

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

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Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep

Hildie Bitterpickles51F4NkHRNkL__SX378_BO1,204,203,200_Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep

Robin Newman, Author

Chris Ewald, Illustrator

Creston Books, Fiction, Feb. 23, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Witch, Noisy neighbors, Problem-solving, Differences, Humor

Opening: “There’s a little-known secret about Hildie Bitterpickles. She needs her sleep.”

Synopsis: A redheaded young witch prepares for bed. As she cuddles with her cat, Clawdia, she hears a very noisy, “CLANGITY, CLANK, CLUNK, all night long.”  She discovers that a giant has moved in next door. The neighborhood gets another jolt when an old woman moves in with a brood of noisy children and a wolf blows off the roof of her house. In exasperation Hildie turns to Rat Realty to find a new home in a quiet neighborhood, only to discover moving isn’t her answer. What will Hildie do to get a good night’s sleep?

Why I like this book:

What a pickle! Robin Newman has written a playful and clever fractured fairy tale about a young witch who learns some very important lessons about getting along with her rambunctious neighbors. Moving away and avoiding them isn’t an easy solution. Hildie discovers that if she confronts her problems with her neighbors, they are willing to work with her to find solutions. This is also an important story about honoring the differences in others.

Newman’s story is character driven, with a feisty and determined witch. Readers will delight in spotting a host of fairy tale characters that include blind mice, black sheep and other familiar storybook figures. The pacing is perfect with quirky and humorous storytelling. Chris Ewald’s gauzy, caricatured images are expressive, colorful and funny. My favorite illustration shows Hildie standing between the Giant’s two very hairy feet. There is a perfect marriage between text and artwork.

Resources: This is a lively classroom discussion book about avoidance versus confrontation. Visit Robin Newman’s website where you will find a free teacher’s guide download and view the video trailer for Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep. Children can also make their own Hildie Bitterpickles paper dolls.

Robin Newman is the author of Wilcox and Griswold: Case of the Missing Carrot Cake.  Newman will publish another Wilcox and Griswold mystery sequel, The Case of the Poached Egg, in the spring of 2017, and No Peacocks!, illustrated by Chris Ewald, in the fall of 2017. Newman was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs and peacocks.

Glasses: The Board Book

GLASSES_COVER_wspineGlasses

Ann Gwinn Zawistoski, Author

Heide M. Woodworth, Photographer

Peeps Eyewear, Nonfiction, 2014

Pages: 12

Suitable for Ages: 0-4

Themes: Glasses, Children, Diversity, Differences, Rhyming

Opening: “Some glasses are red. Some glasses are blue. I think your glasses look great on you!”

Synopsis: A positive board book for babies and toddlers who wear glasses. Colorful glasses, round or square, grace the chubby and happy faces of youngsters to help them see.

Why I like this book:

Ann Gwinn Zawistoski has written a delightful board book with rhyming text that celebrates the important role glasses can play in a child’s life. The book is short, playful and filled with the right amount of information to hold a young child’s attention. It will be a book a child will beg to read again and again. The book also features a diverse group of children. Heide Woodworth’s beautiful photographs are adorable, lively and capture the joy of “seeing” on each child’s face.  I welcome high quality books portraying children with different needs and challenges.

Zawistoski’s daughter started wearing glasses when she was a year old. Her daughter loved looking at books with babies and toddlers’ faces.  The author kept hoping someone would write a book that featured young kids in glasses. Eventually she accepted the fact that no one was going to write a book, so she did. Glasses is the perfect book just right for small hands.

Glasses are redpg1.jpg Glasses help you see.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compliments of Heide M. Woodworth

Resources: The book is a resource for parents, daycare centers, and preschools. It is an ideal book for a child being fitted for his/her first pair of glasses. It is also an excellent gift book! Visit Zawistoski at her website.

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 Perfect Picture Books.

Nobody!: A Story About Overcoming Bullying in Schools

Nobody9781575424965_p0_v1_s260x420Nobody!: A Story About Overcoming Bullying in Schools

Erin Frankel, Author

Paula Heaphy, Illustrator

Free Spirit Publishing, Fiction, May 15, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Bullying, Differences, Accountability, Relational Aggression, Self-confidence

Opening: I used to like school. But that was before somebody decided to make my life miserable. Before somebody named Kyle made me feel like a NOBODY!

Publisher Synopsis: Thomas feels like no matter what he does, he can’t escape Kyle’s persistent bullying. At school, at soccer—nowhere feels safe! “Mom said Kyle would grow over the summer and stop picking on me, but he didn’t grow up, he just grew.” With support from friends, classmates, and adults, Thomas starts to feel more confident in himself and his hobbies, while Kyle learns the importance of kindness to others.

What I love about this book:

  • Erin Frankel and Paula Heaphy, who created the popular Weird series, have published a powerful stand-alone picture book for boys about bullying. Many of the beloved characters in the Weird, Dare and Tough, appear in the background of Nobody! 
  • Readers will identify with the name-calling, insults, threats, fear, and anger. The characters are realistic and the language is simple, but edgy.
  • Thomas narrates the story. We watch him grow from the victim who doesn’t like feeling like a nobody to a more self-confident somebody. I like how his narrative is accompanied with “bubble comments” from all the characters on each page. This allows the reader to be more engaged in the story dynamics as they hear from Thomas, the bully, siblings, parents, teachers and bystanders. The bully, Kyle, also learns a few lessons.
  • Nobody! is an excellent resource for teaching school-age children good emotional techniques to stand-up for what is right, to survive and grow beyond bullying. This is another book that belongs in every school library.
  • Paula Heaphy’s stand-out illustrations are pen and ink drawings with splashes of color. They are bold, expressive, emotive and capture the action in the story. I also like her use of white space. Children will find her illustrations especially appealing.

Resources: The book concludes with “activity club” pages for kids, as well as information to help parents, teachers, counselors, and other adults foster dialogue with children about ways to stop bullying. I would pair this book with the first three books, Weird, Dare and Tough.  Visit  Erin Frankel at her website.

Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red

Tilt Your Head Rosie9781927583593_p0_v1_s260x420Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red

Rosemary McCarney, Author

Yvonne Cathcart, Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction, Apr. 1, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-9

Themes: Bullying, Standing up for what is right, Differences, Friendship, Self-confidence, Diversity, Tolerance

Opening: Every night at bedtime, Rosie took off her special red cape and hung in on the bedpost. And every morning, she tied it over her shoulders before leaping out of bed to start the day.

Synopsis: Rosie arrives at school wearing her red cape and is stunned to see kids on the playground teasing the new girl Fadimata, who is Muslim and wears a hijab. Not all her classmates are being mean, but they seem afraid to stop the bullying. Before Rosie can say anything, the bell rings. She comes up with a plan to help her friend feel welcome. Rosie asks Fadimata if she will make her cape into a headscarf and wears it all day amidst the whisper of the other students. When Rosie arrives at school the next day, she realizes her solution proves that anything is possible and that differences can be celebrated.

Why I like this book:

Rosie is an optimistic, self-confident and strong role model for girls. She’s not afraid to stand up for what is right. If she sees something wrong, she tilts her head, looks at the situation from every angle before she takes action. She’s a superhero for girls. The character Rosie, is based on author Rosemary McCarney, who as a child had and “amazing sense of social justice.” Tilt Your Head, Rosie the Red, is the first of a three picture books starring Rosie the Red. Yvonne Cathcart’s illustrations are colorful and vibrant. They beautifully capture Rosie’s positive and expressive character. This is an inspiring book for home and school.

Resources: This is a great character book to use in the classroom. It addresses diversity, bullying, tolerance and the courage to do what is right. Do some role-playing and ask children to walk in Fadimata’s shoes? How would they feel if they looked different and were teased? Have they been teased and why? Have they ever been a bystander and afraid to help someone being teased? How did that make them feel? Is it hard to stand up to their friends? Did they like how Rosie stood up for Fadimata?

Rosemary McCarney is President and CEO of the Toronto-based Plan Canada, where she spearheads the Because I am a Girl Movement. She is the author of Every Day is Malala Day and Because I am a Girl: I Can Change the World.

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 Perfect Picture Books.

All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month

All My Stripes9781433819179_p0_v1_s260x420All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism

Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer, Authors

Jennifer Zivoin, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 22, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Autism Spectrum, Animals, Differences

Opening: Zane ran home as fast as he could.  “Nobody gets me, Mama!” Mama hugged Zane. He began to tell her about his bad day.

Synopsis: Zane the Zebra feels different from the rest of his classmates. He worries that all they notice about him is his red “autism stripe” located smack in the middle of his forehead.  During art class when the other zebras are working on their hoof-painting projects, Zane doesn’t want to get paint on his hooves and uses a paintbrush instead. The other zebras tease him.  During math class, the fire alarm blares. The other zebras form a line and leave while Zane hides under his desk screaming. After lunch he tries to join in the conversation with the other zebras and they ignore him. He worries that all the other zebras see is his autism stripe.

What I like about this book:

  • All My Stripes is a heartwarming book written especially for children with autism.  They will easily see themselves in this lovable zebra hero. As they follow Zane at school they will identify with his sensitivity to touch and sound, and his difficulty interacting with the other zebras.  Zane wants so much to fit in and just can’t figure out how to start a conversation. When the kids walk away, Zane starts talking louder.  I’m sure this will resonate with autistic children.
  •  Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer shine a light on the autism spectrum, but go a step further and show how endearing, unique and beautiful the children are in this inspiring story about embracing differences. Although the book is meant for kids with autism, its message really could translate to all children. It is also very entertaining.
  • I applaud the author’s use of stripes as a wonderful metaphor in the story. Mama zebra helps Zane feel proud of all of his stripes. She holds him up to a mirror and tells him the meaning of his stripes and how each pattern reveals something that is uniquely Zane: his caring stripe, his curiosity stripe, his pilot stripe, his honesty stripe and his autism stripe. Children will grasp this concept.
  • Jennifer Zivoin’s illustrations are bold, colorful and stunning.  They capture Zane’s emotions and exhilaration. Children will carefully pour over each adorable detail. Great collaboration between the authors and illustrator.

Resources/Activities:   The book has a wealth of information at the end. There is a reading guide that follows the book and tackles the problems that Zane faces in school. There is also a note to for parents and caregivers with tips on finding support. Encourage kids to draw a picture of a zebra and make their own unique stripe patterns.  Visit Hello Kids to learn how to draw a zebra.

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 Perfect Picture Books.

Jacob’s Eye Patch

Jacob's Eye Patch9781476737324_p0_v3_s260x420Jacob’s Eye Patch

Beth Kobliner Shaw & Jacob Shaw, Authors

Jules Feiffer, Illustrator

Simon & Schuster, Fiction, Sept. 24, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Wearing an eye patch, Curiosity, Feeling different

OpeningJacob and his mom were on their way to the science store to buy the most amazing thing ever — a light-up globe. “

Book Synopsis:  Jacob is in a hurry — a really big hurry — to get to the store and buy the toy he’s always wanted.  Along the way, people keep slowing him down to ask him questions about his eye patch.  It’s natural to have questions when some one looks different…but do they have to ask right now?

Why I love this book:  I wore an eye patch as a child and I love sharing this upbeat and winning book!  Beth Kobliner Shaw co-authored the book with her nine-year-old son, Jacob.  They wrote a charming, funny and encouraging story to show that every one has something that makes them unique.  This will be a welcomed and very helpful book for the many children who wear eye patches to strengthen an eye.  You have to admire Jacob’s courage and strength as he’s not going to let his eye patch get in his way of getting to the science store before it closes.  Yes, Jacob understands people are curious about why he’s wearing and eye patch, and normally he doesn’t mind answering their questions. But he’s on a mission and there are too many amusing  obstacles that get in his way.  You’ll find yourself cheering for Jacob!  Jules Feiffer’s illustrations are lively and bold.  The artwork is done in pen and watercolor and convey Jacob’s urgency and frustration to get to the store!  It is an excellent book to use with kids to teach them about differences.

A special thank you to my friend and colleague, Beth Stilborn, who writes the blog By Word of Beth.  She recommended this book to me for review.

Resources:  There are author notes at the end from Beth and Jacob.  For more fun, visit the Jacob’s Eye Patch link where you can find resources, an activity kit and tip sheet .

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.