Somebody Cares by Susan Farer Straus

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Somebody Cares: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Neglect

Susan Farber Straus, PhD, Author

Claire Keay, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 14, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Child abuse, Neglect, Child safety, Diverse characters

Opening: There were times I felt good about being me. I did a lot on my own. I told myself, “‘I’m big. I can take care of myself.” But that’s not how I felt all the time. Lots of times I needed help and there was no help.

Publisher Synopsis: Useful to read with a caring adult, Somebody Cares is a book for children who have experienced parental neglect and have taken care of many things on their own. It helps them understand their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and prepares them for changes in their families. Most importantly, Somebody Cares teaches children that they are not to blame and were brave to do so much on their own.

Why I like this book:

This is the first picture book I’ve read that deals with young children who feel dismissed or neglected by parents. Out of necessity many children have to prepare their own meals, go home to an empty house after school, care for younger siblings, are left at home alone when a parent goes out at night, and worry about parental substance abuse problems. These children are brave, courageous, and strong.  But neglect leads to loneliness, anxiety and behavior problems.  Neglect can be found in all socio-economic groups.

The author has written the narrative in first person, which is very effective. Children express their thoughts and feelings about what it’s like to be on their own. When neighbors and teachers ask them if they are okay, they clam up so they don’t make their parents mad or get in trouble. Help arrives when an adult calls a social worker, who intervenes and talks with the child and parents.  Things begin to change as they all work together.

The illustrator shows a diverse group of children throughout the book, thus eliminating any stereotypes. The illustrations are rendered in warm, colorful pastels. The author has written a must-needed book for children experiencing neglect. Children shouldn’t have to carry such a big burden alone.

Resources: This book is an important tool for grandparents, a caring adult, teachers, school counselors, and therapists to read with a child. In the story the children are encouraged to develop a “Safety Plan,” and a “Feel Good Plan” of deep breathing exercises and relaxation. There are fun after-school activities for kids. There is a “Note to Readers” at the beginning of the book. This book belongs in every school library and counselor’s office.

Favorite Quotes:

“Sometimes I thought everyone forgot about me. Sometimes I thought it was because I was bad.” 

“I thought this was the way it would be forever. Then something happened and things changed.”

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.

Barefoot Book of Children – Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Jan. 27, 2017

Multicuturalblogger buttonMulticultural Children’s Book Day – Jan. 27, 2017

Today I am a book reviewer for the Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCBD). The official social media hashtag is #ReadYourWorld. It was founded “to spread the word, raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature and get more of multicultural books into classrooms and libraries.” Please click on the highlighted link above to see all of 300+ book reviews.

barefoot-book-for-children-61bby4xv8bl__sx423_bo1204203200_Barefoot Book of Children

Tessa Strickland and Kate DePalma, Authors

David Dean, Illustrator

Barefoot Books, Nonfiction, Oct. 1, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Diversity, Race, Inclusivity, Connectivity, Commonality, Differences, Global Family

Opening: Every morning, millions of children open their eyes and start another day. We are all somewhere. Where are you? What can you see or hear or smell from where you are?

This is a timeless and empowering book that gives children a peek into how other children live around the world. The Barefoot Book for Children takes readers on a visual tour of their world and nudges them to think about their own lives in comparison to the lives of kids living in New Zealand, Israel, Brazil, Italy, Africa, Pakistan and China. What are their names? How do the dress? What language do they speak? What do their homes look like? Do they live with a single parent, gay parent or an extended family? What are their favorite foods? Do they go to school? What kind of transportation do they use? Do they have hobbies or like to play games?  What is their faith? In learning about others, children experience a richer view of the world community.

Why I like this book:

Tess Strickland and Kate DePalma’s approach is fresh, versatile and appealing for children. The Barefoot Book of Children is celebration of our diversity, inclusiveness and common humanity. Children are naturally curious about why they are where they are in their specific life. They wonder why they are born to a certain family, what part of the world they are born in and why their lives may feel more challenging or privileged. They may live in a farming community, a jungle or a crowded city. They may be a refugee from a war-torn country. They may be walking miles daily across dusty terrain to gather water for family bathing, cooking and drinking. There are millions of children on the planet, each one leading a life all their own — just as they are.

The Barefoot Book of Children is a thought-provoking book that explores the why of our situation and helps children discover how they are more alike than different, no matter their skin color, language, dress or faith. This book emphasizes connectivity with a beautiful diverse human family. Their lives may vary, but they also enjoy studying the same subjects in school, playing the soccer or swimming, and share similar feelings of joy and sadness. This book fosters acceptance of others.

The first half of the story is a beautiful narrative picture book. The end of the book is nonfiction, informative and interactive. It invites children to take a closer look at all the illustrations presented earlier and delve more deeply into the details. The book encourages important discussions about our common humanity.  David Dean’s illustrations are colorful, lively and engaging. They contribute significantly to this beautiful book. Children will enjoy studying the detail on each page.

Resources: This book is a groundbreaking resource for parents and teachers to use to start important conversations.  Encourage children to write their own story, include drawings and photos of their own lives. Then encourage them to step inside another child’s shoes and imagine where they would like to spend a day in another part of the world. Ask them to pick a country, a different body, a new name, a language, a home, a family, food, clothing, and hobbies. Ask them to write a new story, draw a picture of their new life or tell their story in small groups.

multicultrual-twitterpartyMulticultural Children’s Book Day 2017 is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Their mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors: MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books.

Author Sponsors include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang.

Other shout-outs to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

Join the Twitter party (#ReadYourWorld) and book give-away January 27, from 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. EST. Multicultural, diverse and inclusive book bundles will be given away. 

*I received a review copy of The Barefoot Book of Children from Barefoot Books. The opinions in this review are entirely my own.

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

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Lindsay Eagar, Author

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Mar. 8, 2016

Pages: 360

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Family relationships, Heritage, Magic, Grandfather, Dementia, Forgiveness, Understanding, Loss

Book Jacket Synopsis: While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina –Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met off his dying sheep ranch and into a home for people with dementia.

At first Carol keeps her distance from prickly Grandpa Serge, whose eyes are impossibly old and who chastises “Caro-leeen-a” for spitting on her roots. But as the summer drags on and the heat bears down, she finds herself drawn to Serge, enchanted by his stories about an oasis in the desert with a green-glass lake and a tree that gave the villagers the gift of immortality — and the bees that kept the tree alive.

When Serge weaves details of his own life into his stories and tells her to keep an eye out for the bees he is certain will return to the ranch and end the century-long drought, she chalks it up to dementia. But as the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots.

Why I like this book:

Lindsay Eagar’s heartfelt and sensitive intergenerational story is about finding and honoring your roots.  The language is strong and lyrical and captures the growing bond between Carolina (Carol) and Grandfather Serge. And there is an intermingling of Spanish and English that adds authenticity to the setting.

It also is a coming of age story for a 12-year-old Carol, who is the only family member interested in really getting to know her grandfather and is spellbound with his storytelling about a special tree that keeps the Spanish community safe, a girl who dares to leave and explore the world, and living forever.

The characters are realistic and believable. Carol is a curious, sweet, patient and reliable tween who is the only family member who respects and even admires her grandfather. She attempts to connect with him, even when he lapses into the past and mistakes Carol for her Grandmother Rosa. Grandfather Serge is a crusty old man who is battling dementia and won’t leave his run-down sheep ranch. He can spin a great story and Carol wants to hear them all.

The plot is original with moments of action and tension in the ravaged desert environment that will keep readers engaged. There are personality struggles that teens will relate to with Carol and her sister, Alta, and Carol’s father and Grandfather Serge. This magical story inside the story is beautifully written and one you won’t forget.  I LOVED The Hour of the Bees.  The ending is very satisfying and will capture  readers’ imaginations.

This is a helpful story for teens who have grandparents suffering with dementia. It gives them insight into ways of communicating and connecting with loved ones. It is also an interesting story to read, discuss and write about because of the many  layered themes.

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

Before Morning by Joyce Sidman

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Joyce Sidman, Author and Poet

Beth Krommes, Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, Oct. 4, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: City and town life, A child’s wish, Snow, Rhyme

Book Jacket Synopsis: There are planes to fly and buses to catch, but a small child wishes for a different sort of day. As clouds gather and heavy flakes fall, her invocation rises above the sleeping city. A too-busy world falls silent, and a family revels in the freedom and peace that snow brings.

Why I like this book:

Joyce Sidman’s breathtaking book is pure poetry for children and the young at heart. The text is spare and there are many wordless pages. It is a quiet story to curl up with, read slowly and study the detail on each page. There are busy scenes of people walking in parks, striding past shops, pushing strollers and riding buses. There are children arriving home from school, families eating together, and parents leaving for work. And there is a child who wishes for snow. Beth Krommes’ beautiful scratch-board artwork is a feast for the eyes.  The words and artwork perfectly support the theme.

Resources:  Make sure you read the author’s thought-provoking comment “On Wishes and Invocations” at the end of the book. Ask children what they wish for. Do their words have power?

Joyce Sidman won a Newbery Honor for her Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. She is today’s foremost nature poet for children. Two of her other books are Caldecott Honor books. She won the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children for her award-winning body of work.

Beth Krommes is the Caldecott-winning artist of The House in the Night and other beautiful picture books, including Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, and Blue on Blue.

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.

Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty

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Stacy McAnulty, Author

Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, Illustrator

Running Press Kids, Fiction, Sep. 13, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Girls, Defying stereotypes, Gender equality, Empowerment, Potential

Opening: “Beautiful girls…have the perfect look.”

Synopsis: “Every girl is unique, talented, and lovable. . . .Every girl is BEAUTIFUL.”

Much more than how one looks on the outside, true beauty is found in conquering challenges, showing kindness, and spreading contagious laughter. Beautiful girls are empowered and smart and strong!

BEAUTIFUL breaks barriers by showing girls free to be themselves: splashing in mud, conducting science experiments, and reading books under a flashlight with friends. This book will encourage all girls to embrace who they are and realize their endless potential.

Why I like this book:

There is everything to love about Beautiful.  It is not your stereotypical “sugar and spice” picture book about girls. These girls have substance and they aren’t afraid to get dirty and smelly.  They play sports, plant gardens, play pirates in ponds, study insects and tinker with gadgets. This story is a refreshing and more realistic portrayal of girls. They are happy and embrace themselves for who they are.

Although McAnulty’s minimal text describes the girls as graceful, having the perfect look, smiling sweetly, smelling like flowers and having a smart style, Lew-Vriethoff’s illustrations paint a different picture. Her bold and colorful  artwork is racially diverse and shows girls of different sizes wearing glasses and braces, or playing basketball in wheelchairs.

Beautiful celebrates girls for their individuality. It is a story about personal empowerment and it will encourage girls to realize their endless potential. It is uplifting and makes you smile at these independent little girls who play with abandonment. This also is a good book to share with boys.

Resources: This is a perfect classroom discussion book for all young children. Use Beautiful to start a conversation about how girls and boys see each other. Can girls put worms on hooks? Can boys jump rope? Talk about breaking gender roles. Ask children what it means to be beautiful.

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.

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story

UN International Day of the Girl, Oct. 11, 2016

For the Right to Learn untitledFor the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story

Rebecca Langston-George, Author

Janna Bock, Illustrator

Capstone Young Readers, Nonfiction PB, Aug. 1, 2015

Suitable for ages: 8-11

Pages: 40

Themes: Malala Yousafzai, Educating girls, Children’s rights, Pakistan, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Courage, Hope

Forward: “This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change….” Dec. 14, 2014, Oslo, Norway

Opening: “Malala’s own education started early. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, ran a school in Mingora, a town surrounded by snowcapped mountains in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. From the time she could walk she visited classes. She even pretended to teach. Malala loved school.”

Synopsis: Few Pakistani families can afford to pay for the children’s education.  Others only paid for their sons’ educations. Mala grew up in a world where women were supposed to be quiet. Many parents believed their daughters should cook and keep house. Mala’s parents believed that girls deserved the same education as boys. She studied hard, could speak and write her native Pashto language and fluent English and Urdu. The Taliban leaders were against educating girls, intimidated school leaders, and ordered her father to close his school. But Malala Yousafzai refused to be silent in Swat Valley. She defied the Taliban’s rules. She spoke out for education for every girl. When schools closed she wrote a blog for the BBC and gave interviews. She was almost killed for her beliefs. This powerful true story of how one brave girl named Malala changed the world proves that one person really can make a difference.

Why I like this book:

Rebecca Langston-George powerfully communicates the story of Mala Yousafzai through her careful choice of words so that students are not frightened by her story, but are inspired. Malala is the voice of the many silenced girls who want to attend school. She is a selfless role model for girls everywhere.

I especially like how the book begins on a positive note with Mala receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and with excerpts from her speech. Readers will immediately feel the power in her words and her commitment to be the voice for equal education.

The setting is very realistic with an emphasis on Pakistani culture, community, family life, and traditions. It gives readers a strong sense of what it is like to live in a country where the rights of women and girls are suppressed. It is a story that needs to be told and can be used as a springboard for students to talk about the inequalities for girls and women worldwide.  Hopefully, readers will appreciate their education and not take it for granted.

Janna Bock’s beautiful illustrations make this story soar. She captures the love of a supportive family, the beauty of the Swat Valley with its lush valleys and beautiful waterfalls, the joy of Mala and the other girls studying together at school, the growing fear as the Taliban force girls and women to wear garments to cover their entire bodies and faces, and the danger everywhere. Bock’s illustrations made this book an emotional story that is filled with courage and hope.

Resources: This book belongs in every school library.  It will spark many lively discussions among students about the education of all students globally. For older students there is a page, “More About Malala’s Story” at the end of the book. It is the perfect book the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl, Oct. 11, 2016. This year’s theme is: Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement. It’s just not a day, but a movement where girls get involved. Also check out Day of the Girl – US. And, today the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced.

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.

As a Boy

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Plan International Canada

Second Story Press, Nonfiction, Sep. 6, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Boys, Education, Choices, Gender Inequality, Poverty, Responsibilities, Diversity,

Opening: “As a boy, I will have choices from the day I am born. Some will be made for me…and some I will make for myself.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: All children should be treated equally, whether they are boys or girls. Boys have sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. They care about the choices that their mothers have, and the opportunities that their aunts are given. They want to see their grandmothers get the respect they deserve, and that their sisters have the same rights as their brothers.

Because boys love their sisters, they want them to go to school, just like they do. Because boys are sometimes given chances girls are not, they know that this is not right. And as brothers and sons, nephews and future fathers, they can help to make sure that all children have voices and choices.

Why I like this book:

As A Boy is an inspiring global story about boys and their families. Each page features breathtaking, expressive, and powerful photographs that will melt your heart and touch your soul. No matter how difficult lives can be, there are so many smiles on their faces and a glimmer of hope.

The minimal use of text is strong and conveys Plan International’s message “that boys are routinely given an education and choices that girls are not, and that this needs to change.”  The book allows boys to raise their voices in solidarity, to say that they too want the girls and women in their lives to be given equal opportunities to succeed in the world.”

I am a fan of Plan International books. They address tough issues and teach youth about how difficult life can be for children around the world. Since we are a global family, youth need to know that boys are treated differently than girls around the world. Their needs are put above their sisters. But, boys also face the burden and pressure of growing up quickly to be a man, to work, to support their families, to fight and to be brave.

As a Boy is a perfect companion book to Because I am a Girl: I Can Change the World, as well as The Way to School, both personal favorites of mine. Click on the titles to read my reviews. All three of these books are valuable resources for school libraries, so that children will have an understanding of what it is like to be a boy or girl in a third world country. Since so many children live in poverty, education is vital to their futures. Many times going to school involves hurdles and risks.

Plan International was founded in 1937. It is one of the world’s oldest and largest international charities, working in partnership with millions of people around the world to end global poverty. Not for profit, independent and inclusive of all faiths and cultures, Plan has only one agenda: to improve the lives of children. Proceeds from all the book sales are used to support programs benefitting children around the world.

Resources/Activities: This is an excellent classroom discussion book to talk about how boys and girls are treated differently around the world. Pair As a Boy with the other two books mentioned above, so students get a better look at the gender inequality. Ask students if the feel they are treated equally in their country of origin. Make a list. Ask the boys and girls how they would feel if they had to change places. And, celebrate gender equality with other children on the International Day of the Girl, Oct. 11, 2016.